David Cameron yesterday underlined his commitment to the Tory pact with Ulster Unionists — despite it failing to win a single seat in the General Election.
The Prime Minister’s relatively brief first visit to Northern Ireland was topped and tailed by engagements with his partner party the UUP.
And he defended the Ulster Conservative and Unionist New Force (UCUNF) tie-up which he said had attracted 100,000 votes in the election a fortnight ago.
“I am proud of the fact that we played a part in bringing that normal politics that I want to see,” Mr Cameron said.
The Conservative leader said he wanted to see the development of “normal politics”, focused on better housing, the health service and the economy.
Mr Cameron was first met after touchdown at George Best Belfast City Airport by UUP leader Sir Reg Empey and deputy Assembly Leader Danny Kennedy and finished off his itinerary three hours later with a meeting with some major players in the UCUNF experiment.
Sources said the Prime Minister again underlined his commitment to work together with the UUP,
even though their pact does not at present apply to next year’s scheduled Assembly and local government elections.
Speaking at Stormont Castle he said: “The greatest advantage of the devolved settlement is — now that it is working — we should actually in Northern Ireland have as much normal politics as possible about the issues that affect real people’s lives.”
The Liberal Democrats also appeared to have supported the theme in their detailed coalition agreement with the Conservatives published yesterday.
“We will work to bring Northern Ireland back into the mainstream of UK politics,” it said.