Simon Coveney plays down significance of lack of DUP meeting

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has played down a lack of face-to-face meeting between the Taoiseach and the DUP during today's crunch talks at Stormont.

Arlene Foster's party did not meet with Leo Varadkar when he travelled to the North amid hopes of a breakthrough in the political stalemate between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

Both he and Tánaiste Simon Coveney held meetings with all of the other main political parties throughout the afternoon.

Mr Varadkar said although there had been no meeting with the DUP, he believed that progress had been made between the unionist party and Sinn Féin.

"We didn't meet with the DUP on this occasion. I think you have heard what they had to say today I think the soundings from Arlene Foster and Mary Lou McDonald were positive," said Mr Varadkar.

Relations between the DUP and the Irish Government have become increasingly strained in recent months over Brexit.

However Mr Coveney insisted that the lack of a meeting was simply due to DUP scheduling.

"The DUP had meetings internally this morning right up until lunchtime so I wouldn't read too much into that," he said.

The DUP did hold a meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

A DUP spokeswoman indicated the reason for the lack of meeting was not down to diary commitments, rather that today's talks were focused on issues internal to Northern Ireland.

"Today was focused on internal matters relating to Northern Ireland," she said.

"We will meet with the Irish Government on matters of mutual concern in due course."

- PA

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