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Who are the DUP? Union the most important issue in General Election, Arlene Foster says at manifesto launch

Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster has said the General Election will go a long way in determining if Northern Ireland faces devolution or five years of direct rule.

Launching the DUP's election manifesto at the Old Courthouse in Antrim Mrs Foster said every vote will not just determine who will be returned to Westminster, but also as a mandate for the political negotiations aimed at restoring powersharing at Stormont.

The former first minister said after the election the DUP will enter Stormont negotiations positively but insisted it "will not be a one-way street".

She said any deal to restore devolution will be judged by five core tests.

These tests will include that an agreement will increase support for Northern Ireland's position within the UK, will be fully consistent with the region remaining a "full and integral part" of the UK, will be fully compatible with British citizenship and result in better government than a return to direct rule.

Mrs Foster said, for her, the most important issue at the forthcoming election "is not devolution but the Union itself".

She called on all unionists to rise to the challenge from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and put a border poll off the agenda for generations.

"Sinn Fein want to use this election as a precursor to a border poll.

"Gerry Adams has declared that this election will be a barometer on Irish Unity.

"Let us rise to that challenge and seek to ensure that unionism still returns a majority of unionist MPs to Westminster and puts the notion of a divisive and destabilising border poll off the agenda for generations to come," she said.

Mrs Foster also distanced herself from controversial comments made by party colleague Jim Wells MLA about republican election workers.

In a Twitter post that has since been deleted Mr Wells said Sinn Fein was not welcome in Rathfriland, a "unionist" County Down town.

Mrs Foster said the tweet was a personal tweet.

She added: "We live in a free and open democracy and everyone should be allowed to canvass wherever they want to canvass."

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