Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

DUP to attend talks on a blueprint they wanted withdrawn

The DUP is to attend a conference to debate a province-wide strategy even though party leader Peter Robinson has demanded the document should be withdrawn.

The party has given the go-ahead for Jim Wells, secretary of its Assembly team, to attend the conference next week on the 25-year regional development blueprint.

Officials had considered a boycott given Mr Robinson’s demand for Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy to withdraw the document from the public domain — a request which has been ignored.

As the Belfast Telegraph revealed, First Minister Robinson accused the Sinn Fein Minister of threatening the credibility and future of the Executive by making more than 100 changes to the document after it was collectively agreed by the Executive.

While Mr Robinson is still considering legal action over the issue, a DUP spokesman confirmed it had been decided Mr Wells could join the ‘Shaping our Future’ gathering next Wednesday.

“The First Ministers’ points remain but a discussion of the overall policy and how it will eventually be implemented will not affect the issue around the document,” the spokesman said.

Mr Wells said he would reiterate his leaders argument that the changes should not have been made. “If Ministers cannot trust that other Ministers will stick to what has been agreed there will be no trust,” the South Down MLA added.

The key issues which the strategy is designed to tackle include the housing needs of a growing population, the regional balance between urban and rural areas along with protecting the environment and climate change.

In a pamphlet for the conference, Mr Murphy, who is to give a keynote speech, said: “I want this review to be as inclusive and to hear and benefit from a wide range of views and opinions.”

Mr Murphy has accepted making changes, which included swapping ‘Northern Ireland’ for 'the North' along with other alterations.

But Sinn Fein insists Mr Robinson’s demands are invalid as the letter was not co-signed by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

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