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UUP leader Mike Nesbitt's plan runs real risk of putting Sinn Fein in power: Arlene Foster

By Arlene Foster MLA

The DUP wants to see pro-Union representation maximised at the forthcoming election. We will work with other parties who receive sufficient support to make them eligible for a place in government. However, it does not require a joint electoral platform with another party to form a coalition government alongside them, or even to work closely and positively with them for the good of all our citizens.

In 2015 Mike Nesbitt supported an agreement between the Democratic Unionist Party and the UUP because he wanted to increase the number of pro-Union MPs returned from Northern Ireland.

Indeed, it was also a point of shared disappointment between the two parties that South Belfast, which elected an SDLP MP, had not been included.

I want to see the largest number of pro-Union MPs at Westminster, but I also want to see the number of pro-Union MLAs at Stormont maximised.

When Mike Nesbitt says that he will transfer his vote to the SDLP ahead of any other unionist candidate, that can mean only one thing: that he would like to see an SDLP candidate elected ahead of other pro-union candidates. The logical outworking of his position is that the UUP leader is personally supportive of voting in a way that helps to elect nationalists, who will take their election as an endorsement of support for their united Ireland position and who are already on record as wanting to see Northern Ireland jointly governed in the interim.

Following that logic could mean fewer unionists in the Assembly. Is this now the settled UUP position heading into the final two weeks of the campaign?

The equivalent situation would be for the leader of any of the pro-Union parties in Scotland to offer such support for the SNP. That prospect seems somewhat far-fetched.

Under Mike Nesbitt's leadership many people have characterised the Ulster Unionist Party as "flip-flopping" and "blowing in the wind". The greatest irony is that Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein will have most warmly received Mike Nesbitt's comments.

Everyone knows that Sinn Fein wants to strengthen its position at the polls following its poor performance last May and hopes to weaken the DUP. The opinion polls are already suggesting it is a neck and neck race between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

The choice at this election is a simple one between a strong DUP in Stormont, standing up for Northern Ireland, with a plan to protect jobs and grow the economy and the experience to get the best deal in Brexit negotiations, or a Sinn Fein-led government where Gerry Adams will call the shots.

Unionists know that it is the DUP that is tried and tested and is the only party that can provide the strong leadership to deliver the negotiated outcome vital to the future direction of Northern Ireland.

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