From the moment the exit poll was announced at 10pm on Thursday, and it was apparent that Theresa May was about to lose her Commons majority, the potential role for the Democratic Unionist Party took centre stage.

During the night, the DUP began trending on Twitter and such was the interest in the potential alliance, the party’s website crashed.

The grand irony is that while the DUP supported the decision to leave the European Union, in a perverse attempt to re-energise the UK, the fate of Northern Ireland played little or no role in the debate ahead of the Brexit referendum.

Now, Arlene Foster’s band of merry men and women and their 10 seats will be enough to see May returned to Downing St but the cost, from an Irish context, will be high.

The DUP’s “price” for supporting a Tory government will include a promise there will be no separate post-Brexit status for Northern Ireland, the party’s leader in Westminster has confirmed.

Nigel Dodds, re-elected as MP for Belfast North, said among the DUP’s conditions would be an insistence there would be no deal to keep the region with one foot still in the EU.

The DUP fears that separate status after Brexit — a key demand of Sinn Féin — would decouple Northern Ireland from the UK.

With one eye on the Brexit negotiations that begin in the next 10 days, Dodds said: “There are special circumstances in Northern Ireland and we will try to make sure these are recognised. As regards demands for special status within the European Union, no. Because that would create tariffs and barriers between Northern Ireland and our single biggest market which is the rest of the United Kingdom.

Jonathan Powell, former adviser to Tony Blair and a key negotiator in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, said such a partnership would be a disaster for Northern Ireland.

“I would appeal to the government not to go down this path. Since 1991, when a Tory minister said that Britain would be neutral in Northern Ireland — not take the side of unionists or take the side of the nationalists. If we now find ourselves taking sides, how on earth will we mediate between the two sides. We have a political crisis there, do we want to make this crisis worse,” he said.

“Even John Major at his weakest did not go into an alliance with the DUP because he did not want to be dependent on the DUP.

“We have kept Northern Ireland off the pages of the newspapers since we signed the agreement, and do we really want to put it back there,” he said.

Mr Powell also warned that the DUP’s pro-Brexit stance is at odds with all other parties in the North and that could be damaging.

More on this topic

British police ’formally considering’ allegations Tories broke law due to call centre use British police ’formally considering’ allegations Tories broke law due to call centre use

UK government's 'shabby deal' with DUP branded a threat to Good Friday AgreementUK government's 'shabby deal' with DUP branded a threat to Good Friday Agreement

Everything you need to know about the Conservative-DUP dealEverything you need to know about the Conservative-DUP deal

Theresa May has bought herself time but she remains on probation, warns Tory MPTheresa May has bought herself time but she remains on probation, warns Tory MP


Lifestyle

Pollinators are busy feasting on a tempting selection of flowering plants, says Peter Dowdall.The hedgerows are alive with the sound of insects

Carol O’Callaghan previews Cork Craft Month, when exhibitions, workshops and retail opportunitiesAn insider's guide to Cork Craft Month's exciting exhibitions, shopping opportunities and workshops

An exhibition in Skibbereen pays tribute to late photographer Michael Minihane, writes Richard FitzpatrickMichael Minihane has been putting West Cork in the frame for decades

The rain definitely played spoilsport when Mary and David O’Keeffe were married in St Finbarr’s Oratory, Gougane Barra nearly four decades ago. Despite exchanging vows in a church located in one of the most photogenic locations imaginable, you’d never guess it from their wedding album which is filled with indoor shots only.Wedding of the week: ‘They treated us like royalty’

More From The Irish Examiner