Government pressed over challenge to DUP deal

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Jun 27, 2017
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From left: Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Gavin Williamson, the Conservative party chief whip, Theresa May and Damian Green, first secretary of state

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Lawyers challenging the government’s alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party have said they will press ministers for a response as a confidence-and-supply deal was struck yesterday. 

Theresa May and Arlene Foster announced a formal deal between the minority Conservative government and the Northern Irish party yesterday.

Ciaran McClean, a Green Party politician in West Tyrone, has argued that the Westminster deal is a breach of the Good Friday Agreement, which is a key building block for peace in a part of the UK beset by sectarian violence. The British and Irish governments are obliged to act as impartial guarantors of the agreement, and McClean argues that the Tory-DUP deal undermines British independence. Last week, McClean instructed David Greene, senior partner at the London law firm Edwin Coe, to issue a pre-action protocol letter to the British government challenging the alliance. 

Greene confirmed to The Brief yesterday that the government had until Thursday to respond. He expected that ministers would comply with the pre-action protocol, although he would not speculate on the nature of that response. He did confirm that if the government rejected the basis of McClean’s claim, the legal team would move quickly to issue proceedings.

The complaint in the pre-action protocol letter argued that any agreement between the British government and the DUP is unlawful because “it breaches the word of the Good Friday Agreement, it compromises the government’s independence and breaches the reasonable expectation of the citizens of Northern Ireland … that the government will act with rigorous impartiality”.

Greene has instructed Dominic Chambers, QC, of Maitland Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, to lead McClean’s legal team. Both the solicitor and the silk were involved in the successful judicial review challenge to the government’s approach to article 50, which triggered the UK’s departure from the EU. That case went to the Supreme Court. Also instructed in the latest challenge is John Cooper, QC, of 25 Bedford Row chambers in London.

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