Belfast Telegraph

Who are the DUP? - Foster urges all unionists to unite behind DUP in election

By Noel McAdam

The DUP has urged unionists who normally vote for other parties to "lend us your support this time".

The special appeal to Ulster Unionist and TUV supporters and others came as leader Arlene Foster launched the party's manifesto yesterday.

She said the most important issue in next week's general election was not the return of devolution, but the Union itself.

Mrs Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds insisted a massive result for the DUP would blow increasing nationalist calls for a border poll out of the water for years.

"Gerry Adams has declared that this election will be a barometer on Irish unity. Well, let's rise to that challenge," Mrs Foster declared.

It would, she added "put the notion of a divisive and destabilising border poll off the agenda for generations to come, and certainly for my lifetime".

The former First Minister said Sinn Fein was using the election as a "precursor" to a border poll. The SDLP has also demanded a border poll following the Brexit negotiations, while republicans have said it should be within the next five years.

Mr Dodds, who is facing a strong challenge from Sinn Fein candidate John Finucane in North Belfast, said: "We are calling on all unionists to unite behind the DUP.

"Those who voted in March (in the Assembly elections) and to other unionists, we ask them to lend us their vote at this election so we can make our support for the Union abundantly and unambiguously clear."

Mr Dodds said it was "worrying" that Sinn Fein kept repeating a "mantra" about restoring the Executive, yet republicans do "not care enough" about the return of devolution.

Sinn Fein has also insisted there will be no return to the "status quo" unless a new Executive is founded with sufficient regard to respect and equality.

In response, the DUP manifesto sets out what it terms 'A Real Respect Agenda', which argues respect "does not simply mean acceding to everything asked or demanded by different groups or communities".

It continues: "Instead, it is a dialogue of what is wanted, what is needed and what can be practically delivered to ensure the expression of an identity (with) an important place for our growing minority ethnic communities."

Mr Dodds said the party wanted a discussion and development of "real respect", which would include how British identity and Ulster identity can be better expressed.

Mrs Foster also tied in respect to her idea of "Britishness" when she underlined "by far the most important issue for me at this election is not devolution but the Union itself". Mrs Foster continued: "My Britishness cannot be reduced to a name or a badge, but is a culture and a way of life.

"It is about decency and yes, folks, it is about respect." After the election she said the DUP will enter Stormont negotiations positively, but it "will not be a one-way street", and any deal with Sinn Fein would be judged against "five core tests".

These include full consistency with Northern Ireland remaining a "full and integral part" of the UK, fully compatible with British citizenship, and resulting in better government than a return to direct rule.

The 23-page document also reiterates an earlier demand for a review of the structure and funding of the BBC.

It includes a plan to cut or abolish the TV licence fee.

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