DUP 'to work with Tories or Labour'
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) could work with either the Conservatives or Labour in the event of a hung parliament, the DUP leader has said.
Peter Robinson said the DUP would do what is best of all for the people of Northern Ireland, but sounded a note of caution on the Conservative Party's proposed welfare policies.
Asked if the DUP could support either a Conservative or Labour minority government, he said: "Well what we have to do is what is best first of all for the people of Northern Ireland but for the UK as a whole, we are a unionist party.
"We've had a very good relationship with both the Conservative Party and with the Labour Party in the past. We've worked with them because we are a devolved region, we've worked with both of them during the last two periods of parliamentary terms, so yes, we could work with either of those parties as we have in the past."
He said the DUP opposed some existing welfare plans the Conservatives brought forward including the so-called "bedroom tax" and would vote to ensure its removal.
"Let me be very clear, I cannot see how £12 billion could be saved on welfare in a way that would enjoy our support."
Mr Robinson said the party had costed the manifestos of both the major parties as they would apply to Northern Ireland, adding: "Out of a £10 billion block grant to Northern Ireland at the end of the five-year term, there was only £1 million of a difference between the spending plans of the two parties as would relate to Northern Ireland."
The First Minister of Northern Ireland also raised concerns over the tone of the Conservative Party's arguments concerning the influence of the SNP in Westminster.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "I'm just hoping that that has more to do with the campaign team than it is with the policy makers in the party."
He added: "I have to say some of the anti-Scottish rhetoric doesn't bode well for encouraging people to remain within the UK. So there has to be a balance - at the one side you obviously have to make it clear that there are real dangers with the separatism agenda of the SNP, at the other hand you must make sure that you are not punishing the people of Scotland because some of them take that view."
Mr Robinson also said there were "special circumstances" after Northern Ireland health minister Jim Wells quit following an outcry over alleged homophobic remarks.
Mr Wells earlier confirmed he would be standing down to care for his seriously ill wife. The announcement came hours before the DUP vetoed an attempt to legalise gay marriage.
Mr Robinson said: "Well I think they weren't his views. He indicated in his resignation statement that he apologised and the statement was inaccurate.
"That had already been the subject of a comment that I made the day before, indicating that they were not the views of the party, nor would they ever be. So I think he has been under very considerable pressure, his wife has had two heart attacks and she has undergone a serious operation in hospital.
"He has been spending every night at her bedside for over two months. So I think there are special circumstances and I wish Jim and his wife well, I hope she gets back to health soon."
He went on: "Yes we are socially conservative, we make no apology for that, the majority of people in Northern Ireland would fall into that category as well."