13 May 2019
Speaking at the launch of the DUP European Election campaign, DUP Leader Arlene Foster said,
Only a few weeks ago we were at another sportsground launching another manifesto.
People rallied to our cause and in that Local Government election we increased our vote share and secured new seats across the country.
It wasn’t just our manifesto which people rallied to support but also our candidates.
We had some excellent candidates across the country.
Today ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to endorse another outstanding candidate in Diane Dodds.
Diane came through local government. Serving on Belfast City Council and then making history by becoming the first Unionist MLA to be elected in West Belfast.
But since being elected as our MEP in 2009, Diane has made more history by raising the bar in terms of representation for Northern Ireland.
Diane has opened doors in Brussels for innocent victims of terrorism by linking up victims in Northern Ireland with people in Spain who have also suffered at the hands of terrorists.
Last week she was in Kilkeel and it was clear she has been their voice in Brussels for the last decade.
Men and women who are looking to move the fishing industry forward were clear that Diane has been an excellent advocate for our fleet and has stood up to get the right decisions made in Brussels but also at home too by working with our MLAs and MPs.
Our agri-food industry know they have a friend in Diane Dodds.
Diane Dodds was the first MEP I have ever met who when she couldn’t get the Northern Ireland media to report what she was doing in Brussels back in 2009, organised public meetings all over Northern Ireland for our farmers.
I know because she invited me to many of them as well. But this wasn’t a one off. Diane kept this engagement going over the last decade.
From the canteen in a cattle mart to orange halls Diane pulled farmers together to hear from them first-hand about the reforms they wanted to see.
Whether it was fairness in the supply chain, better standards for live exports, a simplified CAP or voting against damaging trade decisions for our beef sector, Diane knew she was implementing the will of the people she represented.
But Diane didn’t stop with our agri-food sector she organised similar rounds of engagement for our older people. She wanted our elderly to get a better deal from Brussels and she published this booklet ‘signposts to support older people’.
Diane was breaking new ground in representation.
Then she published a similar guide to funding for our churches who provide so many pastoral services which help make our communities stronger. All across Northern Ireland there are faith-based groups benefiting from millions of pounds of support as result of Diane pointing them in the right direction.
From farmers in Belcoo to a Women’s Centre in Ballybeen and from marching bands near Maguiresbridge to a church hall near Magheragall, Diane has made a real difference.
That’s why when people go to the polls in ten days time, they know they are voting for a woman who cares passionately about their interests.
I spent Saturday campaigning with Diane in Counties Down and Antrim. People know they are voting for a strong and experienced voice but they also know they are voting for a woman who has stood strong for our sovereignty as we have sought to leave the European Union.
Whether it has been Guy Verhofstadt, Michel Barnier, Leo Varadkar or Theresa May, Diane Dodds has never been afraid to speak up and stand up.
Diane has been an invaluable resource for our Party in Brussels as we have sought to Defend the Union and Deliver Brexit.
I want to see Diane win this election and send a message to London and Brussels that the referendum result must be implemented.
I want to see the seventeen point four million people who voted ‘leave’, have their democratic wish implemented.
To do anything other than implement the will of the people will damage democracy.
But this election can also send a message to London and Brussels that implementing the referendum need not be a choice between respecting the result and the Union.
We must all leave on the same terms. It was a United Kingdom decision and we will continue to reject any trade barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Whilst some unionists will have voted ‘remain’ in 2016, I have spoken with dozens who now recognise that whatever their preference, the democratic wishes of the people must be implemented.
A Dodds 1 vote on 23rd May will send a message that the 2016 result must be respected.
Whilst we have been able to help defeat the Withdrawal Agreement in Westminster, we need this election to strengthen our hand.
There is much work to be done if we are to defend the Union and deliver Brexit.
There is much work to be done in the future negotiations.
It is only the DUP that has the strength and focus to do so.
It is the DUP that has stood strong in London and Brussels.
We need the people to remind those who sit across the table that we have an unquestionable mandate.
However I want to see two unionists returned.
Colum Eastwood sees this as his chance to retake John Hume’s seat alongside Martina Anderson.
To those who fear casting their first preference for the DUP may cost unionism a second seat, they need not fear.
Throughout this campaign we have been urging people to vote Dodds 1 and then for other unionists who want to see the Union defended and the referendum respected.
After Diane was elected in 2014, it was twenty-two thousand of Diane’s transfers which secured Jim Nicholson’s election.
So long as unionists vote Dodds 1 and then continue to vote for the other unionists, two Unionist seats will be safe.
In conclusion, I am delighted to endorse this manifesto and our Party’s candidate Diane Dodds.
Over the next ten days we will be taking nothing and no one for granted.
We will be travelling to every part of the Country and urging people to make their voice heard.
We will be urging people to seize this moment. I am opposed to a second referendum but weak DUP vote will be interpreted in London and Brussels as a vote for no Brexit.
As we travel the laneways and villages of Ulster we will be telling every door, don’t let Michel Barnier or Jean Claude Junker misrepresent your vote.
Its time to tell them again.
Its time to Vote Dodds 1 and defend the Union and deliver Brexit.