Sinn Fein victory would lead to calls for a divisive border poll, claims Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster has claimed Sinn Fein could win the Assembly election and use its "massive mandate" to demand a "divisive and destabilising" border poll.
The DUP leader also said that the election was not a referendum on Stormont's Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.
Writing in the Belfast Telegraph today, the former First Minister argued it would be a "shame" if the RHI controversy was allowed to become a "catalyst to undermine the Union".
With just days left before voters go to the polls, Mrs Foster said it was quite possible Sinn Fein could win the most seats - meaning unionists, for the first time, would not represent a majority in a Northern Ireland Parliament or Assembly.
She also said she believed Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams now wanted to negotiate directly with the Government in London, bypassing the DUP and Stormont.
She continued with her recent mantra of mentioning Mr Adams as often as possible in her public pronouncements.
"If Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein win the election it would give republicans a massive mandate for their demands with the British Government. They would use an election victory as a justification for a border poll, which would be divisive and destabilising," she said.
"Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein would use an election victory for vindication of their position that the border between the UK and the EU should be the Irish Sea - not the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
"Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein would take an election victory for republicans as a mandate to pursue their strategy of putting our soldiers and security forces in dock and of rewriting history."
Mrs Foster said it would not only make devolution harder to restore, but render it permanently unstable.
"Make no mistake, it is not the DUP, but the British Government that Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein want to be dealing with.
"It would threaten our economic recovery by undermining the prospects for a reduction in corporation tax and make the needs of the Northern Ireland economy subservient to the narrow party political interests of Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein.
"If, as Sinn Fein has sought, the Justice Department is selected by d'Hondt, it would allow a Sinn Fein Justice Minister for the first time in history, while the PSNI and security services state that the IRA Army Council still exists, and some believe that it continues to control Sinn Fein.
"It would lead to the sort of sectarian abuse of power that has been seen wherever Sinn Fein have been able to do so - from the removal of the Union flag at City Hall, the glorification of convicted terrorists to the ministerial abuse of office which has been adjudicated upon by the courts," Mrs Foster added. Mrs Foster said some - including Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt - had sought to make the election a referendum on the RHI.
"It is not. People are understandably angry about the RHI and undoubtedly mistakes were made, but a full public inquiry has been established," she said.
Sinn Fein and the SDLP have accused Mrs Foster of attempting to deflect from the role of the RHI scandal, which led to former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness standing down.
Mrs Foster added: "It would be a disaster for unionism if the handling of a renewable energy scheme was allowed to be used as a catalyst to undermine the Union.
"This would be particularly unnecessary in advance of any findings of wrongdoing by the public inquiry; and given the fact that I have made a commitment to accept the outcome of whatever the inquiry concludes."