DUP lays out post-poll pact demands
The Democratic Unionist Party has set out its stall for any coalition negotiations after the general election - focusing on defence spending, the so-called "bedroom tax" and action to better protect the UK's borders.
With the May 7 poll widely tipped to produce another hung parliament, the Northern Irish party - at present the fourth largest in the Commons with eight seats - could find itself playing a pivotal role in the formation of a new administration.
Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said it was keen to lay down its minimum demands now in a bid to avoid fostering "a culture of backroom deals being cut only after people have voted".
They were, he said in an article for the Guardian, priorities concerned with "what's best for the UK".
"While we, naturally, will always want the economic and social interests of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole protected, politically we would not seek to exploit for narrow and selfish reasons any leverage at Westminster over devolved matters," he wrote.
"We won't repeat the mistakes made by the Liberal Democrats. This is not about power for us, it's about what's good for the country."
He said spending 2% of GDP on defence - the Nato target which main parties have declined to commit to continuing to meet - was a "bare minimum".
"To that end, the next government should complete, equip, deploy and defend (not least by commissioning sufficient escorts) the two Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers as a centrepiece of keeping Britain safe and enabling us to better protect our friends and those in need of our help."
Any power-sharing deal would also need to include a commitment to look again at the "inhumane and ineffective consequences of the bedroom tax" - the policy of removing state subsidies for spare bedrooms that was not implemented by Stormont.
And there should also be a push in the EU for a " formal, treaty-based recognition that countries like the UK that wish to should be able to better protect their borders".
"Free movement of labour does not have to entail free access to benefits paid for by other countries' taxpayers," he said.
"We would expect any government we're called upon to sustain in the Commons to promptly and comprehensively tackle UK border integrity. And the urgency in this matter stems not least from our need to keep ourselves safe from terrorism sourced and inspired from abroad."
He concluded: " We are neither looking to exploit any position of advantage for limited party ends, nor do we merely wish to present a shopping list of desirable goodies funded by a depleted and hard-pressed Treasury.
"Our goal at Westminster as a unionist party is to see the entire union prosper. The proposals I outline would put the interests of the union as a whole first, should neither the Conservatives nor Labour manage to form a government on their own."