N.Ireland's DUP surge, could help May

Amanda Ferguson
AAP
N.Ireland's DUP surge, could help May

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said they would be willing to negotiate with Prime Minister Theresa May to help her form a government as it saw its vote surge at elections to Britain's parliament.

May's Conservatives will fail to win a majority, according to an exit poll, meaning the like-minded DUP, set to gain two seats to win 10 of Northern Ireland's total of 18, could potentially play a key role in a future government.

The influence which Britain's smallest province may have after the election was reinforced by the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party's pledge to maintain its policy of not taking its seats, a position that will cut the numbers needed to win a majority.

Sinn Fein was on course to win as many as 7 of the remaining seats, up from 4 in 2015. That would mean the winning party would need 323 seats for a majority, rather than 326. The exit poll suggested May's Conservatives would win 314 seats.

"This is perfect territory for the DUP obviously because if the Conservatives are just short of an overall majority, it puts us in a very, very strong negotiating position and it is one we would take up with relish," DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told BBC television.

"We will be serious players if there is a hung parliament. We will talk to whoever is the largest party, it looks like the Conservatives. We have a lot in common, we want to see Brexit work, we want to see the Union strengthened. I think there is a lot of common ground."