17 February 2017
Addressing Party members in Newry & Armagh on Friday evening DUP Leader Arlene Foster pointed to the negotiations that will follow the election and the need for a strong team of unionist negotiators to deliver for Northern Ireland.
During the speech she said,
“It is dangerous to advocate supporting candidates who are Pro-United Ireland above preferences for fellow unionists. The greater the number of nationalist MLAs elected the stronger the push will be for a Border Poll.
With the greatest respect to Mike and Colum, neither of their parties are even fielding enough candidates to win the election. And neither have any record of delivering anything.
The truth is a vote for Mike means you will get Mike and Sinn Fein not Mike and the SDLP. Sinn Fein would love to be negotiating with Mike Nesbitt. Even his own supporters fear that outcome.
It is critical that unionism enters these negotiations from a position of strength.
For many years unionists came off second best in negotiations and Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein were able to advance their radical republican agenda.
That all stopped when the DUP became the leading unionist party in 2003. Since then the DUP have gradually but steadily regained ground lost when the UUP were negotiating for unionism.
This culminated in the Stormont House Agreement and the Fresh Start Agreement which represented another significant step forward for unionism.
The reality is that it is because of Sinn Fein’s inability to deal with the DUP in negotiations that they have precipitated a crisis in which they will wish to deal directly with the UK government.
That is why it is so important that the DUP wins a strong mandate to ensure that the government do not give in to Sinn Fein’s demands.
The DUP will place the interests of the people of Northern Ireland first in negotiations.”