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'Anxiety and fear' in Northern Ireland over Conservative-DUP talks: Sinn Fein

LONDON (Reuters) - A potential agreement for the Northern Irish unionist DUP to prop up a minority Conservative government led by Theresa May in Britain is causing anxiety and fear in the province, Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein said on Tuesday.

Sinn Fein Members of Parliament (MPs) Michelle Gildernew and Paul Maskey attend a news conference in central London, Britain June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The Conservatives need the DUP’s 10 votes to achieve a working majority in parliament but some politicians and commentators have expressed fears that it could undermine the peace settlement that brought an end to three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

“This new arrangement is very unsettling, and people are concerned and wary of what it may mean, and what promises will be given, or promises extracted from Theresa May,” said Michelle Gildernew, a lawmaker for Sinn Fein.

“There is a lot of anxiety and a lot of fear out of what is being discussed.”

Former Prime Minister John Major said earlier that a Conservative-DUP deal could create the perception that London was no longer an honest broker of the 1998 peace settlement in Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement.

The DUP said it was discussing issues to do with Brexit and economic matters in its talks with the Conservatives.

However, there are other issues that could be discussed that Sinn Fein would object to, including any change in the treatment of British soldiers accused of crimes during Northern Ireland’s conflict, in which 3,600 people were killed.

Concessions on such issues could seriously damage efforts by the DUP to secure a deal with Sinn Fein to restore Northern Ireland’s devolved government, which collapsed in January.

Sinn Fein said that it was important there was transparency over any deal between the Conservatives and the DUP, and that compromises over certain policy areas could hinder efforts to form a new Northern Irish executive.

“The form of the DUP in the past in the past, and the type of policies that they have put forward, the type of policies that they have pursued with the Tories in the past, are very very concerning,” Pearse Doherty, a Sinn Fein lawmaker in the Irish parliament, said.

“It does cause serious strain in relation to the potential of getting an executive up and running, if we have that type of relationship.”

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, writing by Alistair Smout, editing by William James