31 December 2019
In her New Year Message, DUP Leader Arlene Foster MLA said,
“As we enter a new decade, the 2020s must be about stable devolution where the Executive is committed to building a successful Northern Ireland at peace with itself. It must be about taking the bold decisions to reform and improve our schools and hospitals so they can support the next generation. It must be about realising and harnessing all that is good about Northern Ireland rather than driving wedges and creating divisions.
As I look back over the last decade, I can see lots of learning for us all from mistakes that were made. I also take heart in the progress that was made. Whilst Stormont wasn’t succeeding since 2017, almost everywhere else was. From the cranes dominating our skylines, to the red open-top tour buses now a permanent fixture in Belfast’s streets, or the now accepted normality of cruise ships docking in Belfast and the filming of global productions like Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland. Those are all signs of progress which only 50 years ago would have been unimaginable.
This must be the decade of decision rather than dithering. The A5 must be built, the York Street Interchange (with C&S money sitting in the bank) must be built. We need enough doctors and nurses trained to care for the public, we need child care provision fit for the needs of the 2020s. We need school principals to be able to focus on educational achievement rather than fundraising for key resources. We need the generation who were hurt the most in the Troubles to have access to justice and the opportunity for healing.
The Talks will recommence on Thursday. We will be there and stand ready to restore devolution through a fair and balanced deal. A Northern Ireland that is going to keeping moving forward must be one where everyone feels at home but must also be one where no one feels their culture is being marginalised.
Whilst some will focus on border polls and narrow interests, to do so will be a mistake and will lead to a wasted decade. 18 years ago, the 'United Ireland' parties, SF and SDLP obtained 42.7% of the vote, while at last month’s Westminster election SF, SDLP and Aontú got 38.9%.
I’m British and I’m a unionist to my core but the way to protect the Union best is to make Northern Ireland a success. The majority of people want us to focus on delivering better public services and building a Northern Ireland where their children can succeed. The electorate have used the ballot box to reinforce that message. The 2020s must be about showing that we have listened.”