31 December 2018
In her New Year Message, DUP Leader Arlene Foster MLA said,
“July 2019 has been marked in our minds for a number of years as we’ve been looking forward to The Open in Royal Portrush. We send our best wishes to all at the Club and in the surrounding area, with every faith they will be fantastic ambassadors for Northern Ireland. This event will give the North Coast a global audience and act as a catalyst for many other exciting developments in that area.
29th March 2019 has also been marked in our minds as we have worked towards exiting the European Union. For our part, we want to leave with a sensible deal which works for the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland in particular but also our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland. We want an orderly exit which implements the referendum result.
We have been consistent throughout the negotiations that Great Britain is Northern Ireland’s main market therefore, any deal which will undermine the economic or constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom single market, will not have DUP support.
The Prime Minister has promised to get changes to the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement. We will be holding her to that commitment and we will work with the Government to achieve a better deal. We are very mindful that any deal will bind the hands of future governments and Prime Ministers therefore the legal text must be watertight for the United Kingdom.
Whilst some have sought to use the EU exit negotiations as a platform to launch attacks on the Prime Minister and the Government, that is not our focus and we will not be party to such games when dealing with such an important issue.
We are also mindful of people in all sectors who are frustrated with the pace of negotiations and the lack of certainty. We share the frustration. As politicians, we have a duty to look to the long-term impact of any deal on our core industries. That’s where our energies will be focused in the coming days.
March 2019 will also mark two years since the last election to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Sinn Fein continues to veto the formation of a new Northern Ireland Executive unless we first agree to implement their narrow wish list of republican demands. Of course there is room for a balanced agreement but it is unreasonable to expect unionists to roll-over to every Sinn Fein demand.
Despite the chaos caused in the Northern Ireland Civil Service by Sinn Fein’s boycott of the House of Commons, the Assembly and the Executive, we have used our position in Westminster to help deliver the Belfast City Deal as well as additional funding for schools, roads, hospitals, broadband for rural areas in Northern Ireland and an additional £10m for mental health services.
We will work for a restored Assembly. It is in everyone’s interests to have a functioning devolved government which demonstrates that Northern Ireland is at peace with itself.
May 2019 will see Northern Ireland go to the polls in our Local Government elections. From keeping rates low to improving access to services for people with disabilities, the DUP will seek a local government mandate for good sound policies. In particular, this will be an opportunity for the people in the west of Northern Ireland to give their verdict on their nationalist and republican controlled councils. Repeatedly, republicans have failed to recognise the Unionist minorities in those areas. We will continue to highlight this issue. Those who shout the loudest about respect and equality must start to practice what they preach.
Finally, as Northern Ireland’s largest Party, we have a responsibility to deliver in Westminster, Brussels, Belfast and local government. We will not shirk those responsibilities. Our strength lies in the depth, experience and breadth of our team. 2019 will be a challenging year with historic decisions to be made but we will work as a team to ensure the right decisions are made. We have proved in the past, we will say ‘no’ when it’s a bad deal but we will stand strong for Northern Ireland and say ‘yes’ when it’s the right deal.”