Enda McClafferty,Northern Ireland political editor

PA Media Gavin RobinsonPA Media

Gavin Robinson was ratified as DUP leader on Wednesday evening

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Gavin Robinson has accepted his party oversold the deal to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland.

Mr Robinson had been accused of backtracking on the deal he helped negotiate to restore power sharing.

It followed a speech on Wednesday where Mr Robinson appeared to contradict previous messages delivered by the DUP leadership.

He was speaking after being ratified as the DUP party leader.

He told party members that, despite the deal negotiated with the government, the Irish Sea border remained in place

This was at odds with previous statements made by the former leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson who insisted the Irish Sea border had been “effectively” removed as a result of the Safe Guarding the Union deal he secured with the government.

When pressed about whether the DUP had oversold the deal, Mr Robinson told BBC Radio Ulster’s The Nolan Show on Thursday: “Yes, there should have been more cautious realism.”

What did Gavin Robinson tell DUP party officers?

On Wednesday evening, Mr Robinson addressed his party executive in Lisburn, after it was confirmed he would lead the DUP into the election.

He was appointed interim leader by party officers in March.

It came after the resignation of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, after he was charged with rape and other historical sex offences, which he said he will strenuously contest.

Mr Robinson said he was looking forward to leading his DUP team into the election with “energy and purpose”.

He addressed Northern Ireland’s place in the union, following arrangements agreed by the DUP and the government aimed at addressing the Irish Sea border.

He said the party would send a clear message to the next government – whether Labour or Conservative – that there was still work to do to improve those new arrangements.

“We will continue to fight to fully restore Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom, including removing the application of EU law in our country and the internal Irish Sea Border it creates.”

He said he was urging all unionist voters to set aside “internal debate” in the aim of maximising unionist representation at Westminster.

How have other unionists reacted?

PA Media Doug Beattie and Jim AllisterPA Media

Doug Beattie and Jim Allister have accused Mr Robinson of backtracking

The Ulster Unionists have accused the DUP leader of backsliding on the party’s previous position

Speaking on the BBC’s Nolan show on Wednesday night, UUP leader Doug Beattie said it was now clear the DUP had changed direction.

While TUV leader Jim Allister said the DUP leadership “shift” showed his party was “right all along”.

“What matters is not the DUP’s latest spin on its ‘Donaldson Deal’, as it pivots in circles, but the substance of their deal which carries Gavin Robinson’s indelible fingerprints. None of the substance of their deal has changed,” Mr Allister said.

Analysis: Enda McClafferty, BBC NI political editor

It was a reset in all but name as Gavin Robinson sought to heal rifts within the DUP ahead of next months election.

He acknowledged in a coded way that the deal he negotiated to restore power sharing was oversold at the time.

There should have been more “cautious realism” around what was achievable at the time, he said.

He also fully accepted the Irish Sea border remains in place despite what the leadership had previously claimed.

It was enough for one key critic who said the party had now adopted a “more honest” position on the Irish Sea border.

But how does the DUP now plan to get the border removed?

That remains the big question, which will likely remain unanswered this side of the election.



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