25 November 2017
Introduction to the Party Leader at the 2017 DUP Annual Conference by South Down member Diane Forsythe
Good afternoon Conference.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Diane Forsythe and I’m a member of our South Down Association.
I’m a mum of three young children. I’m a full-time accountant working in an international business in Kilkeel. I’ve lots of other commitments. In short, like most of you, I’m a busy person.
With everything a working mum like me has on their plate, perhaps the last thing I needed on top of everything else was to become a candidate for South Down in the General Election. But that’s exactly what I found myself doing last June.
I’d never run for any kind of political office before. I’d never been particularly active in politics. In fact, this is my first ever DUP Conference.
So why on earth was I letting my name go onto the ballot paper back in June?
The moment I decided to do my bit was when I saw the results of March’s Stormont Election come in.
In the days after the Election, I listened to family, to friends and to work colleagues and it became very clear to me that many within our unionist family were shocked by the Assembly Election result.
Many had voted but never saw the result being as close as it was. Others hadn’t voted at all and deeply regretted it. All of them were worried what the future would hold for Northern Ireland and our place within the United Kingdom.
For me, there was only one thing to do. I needed to stand up, step forward, get involved and play my part in motivating and re-energising our unionist community.
It was time for me to stand strong for the Party that I believe with all my heart is the only unionist party that can deliver real unionist unity and the only party that will stand strong for the Union. And that’s why I became a DUP candidate.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that when I decide to do something, I don’t do things by half. When I joined my local athletics club, it wasn’t long until I entered and ran a marathon. That is the type of person I am. Committed, dedicated, determined, hard-working and I put 100% into the things I believe in and that matter to me, my family and my community.
When I made up my mind that I wanted to put my shoulder to wheel and do what I could to help the unionist cause, I didn’t quite expect that to be as a Westminster candidate. But I was humbled to be asked to run as a candidate in the constituency I call home and I was honoured to be a candidate for this great Party.
With the help of a great group of workers in South Down, I’m proud that we were able to increase the Party’s vote in the constituency by over 1,000 votes. I am so pleased that so many people came out and chose the DUP in South Down as the Party to stand strong for the Union.
As well as the team in South Down, there was someone else who encouraged me at every opportunity and was an inspiration to me throughout the Election. And that’s our Party Leader, Arlene Foster.
This past year has been like a rollercoaster. Perhaps even describing it as a ‘rollercoaster’ is an understatement. Anyone can keep going when things are running smoothly but when the going gets tough, that is when strength of character and conviction is put to the test.
That is when real hard work and determination is needed. That is when visionary politics is called for. That is when we need strong, principled leadership. And that is when we as grassroots Party members look to our leadership. And what a strong Leader we have in Arlene Foster.
She has led us through a difficult year. But she remained firm. She didn’t give in. She stood strong. And she led us to our excellent election result in June.
Conference, it is my absolute honour to introduce onto the stage, the Leader of Unionism, our Party Leader, Arlene Foster.