Tories ‘sought unionist alliance’

By Alex Stevenson

David Cameron faces accusations of interfering with politics in Northern Ireland as agreement between the province’s two main parties moves closer.

The Conservative leader has denied a newspaper report claiming that the Conservatives were seeking to unite the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) with the Ulster Unionist party (UUP).

Mr Cameron is committed to fielding joint candidates with the UUP party in all of Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies.

Three weeks ago shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson met with the UUP and DUP leadership to discuss, among other matters, putting up a united front against Sinn Fein, it was reported.

“There was talk of drawing up an agreed set of principles for the future of Unionism between the UUP and DUP,” a source told the Times newspaper.

“But the next thing Owen knew was when news of the talks was leaked by the DUP. I think he has learned a big lesson from this.”

The development comes as a final deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein on the devolution of policing and justice powers moves closer.

Wide expectation of an imminent deal spread yesterday as talks resumed at Hillsborough Castle outside Belfast.

The precise timing of the transfer from Westminster to Stormont remains a bone of contention, however.