11:06, June 22 114 0 theguardian.com

2017-06-22 11:06:03
Legal challenge made against possible DUP deal with Tories

A Green party politician in Northern Ireland has begun a legal challenge against the anticipated parliamentary deal between the Democratic Unionist party and the Conservatives.

Solicitors acting for Ciaran McClean, who stood for the Greens in West Tyrone at the general election, have served a letter before action on the government alleging that it would breach the terms of the Good Friday agreement.

Negotiations between the 10 DUP MPs and Theresa May’s party are still continuing although discussions are making slow progress. A supply and confidence agreement would ensure that the prime minister commands a majority in the Commons.

The highly experienced London law firm acting for McClean is Edwin Coe LLP, which represented one of the successful lead claimants in the Brexit article 50 judicial review case at the supreme court.

Their lead solicitor is David Greene, who acted for Deir Dos Santos in the Brexit case. His legal letter sets out the grounds of complaint and threatens judicial review proceedings over the DUP/Tory deal.

The basis of the claim is that any deal between the government and DUP will be in breach of the 1998 Good Friday agreement, under which the government undertook to exercise its power in Northern Ireland “with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions”.

The government is trying to act as an honest broker in re-establishing the collapsed power-sharing executive at Stormont.

The Edwin Coe letter says any agreement between the DUP and the Conservatives would compromise the government’s independence and breach the reasonable expectation of the citizens of Northern Ireland, including McClean, that the government will act with rigorous impartiality.

McClean, who won 427 votes in West Tyrone, said: “I campaigned for the Good Friday agreement and remain absolutely committed to it. I was horrified when I heard that the government was thinking of getting into bed with the DUP so that it could survive crucial votes in the House of Commons.

“Both in spirit and, as I am advised, in law, such an agreement flies in the face of the obligations of rigorous impartiality under the Good Friday agreement and is simply unacceptable.

“It’s almost too late for the government to correct the position because whatever it now does in relation to an agreement with the DUP, even if it abandons it and continues in office, there will always be the suspicion of some sort of deal having been done. My lawyers have written to the government and we must now see what they say in response.”