Belfast Telegraph

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Published 20/11/2009

Before I begin setting out the DUP's vision for the Union and Ulster there is a vital issue that I must address directly - politicians' expenses. This issue cuts across all party boundaries but today the focus is our party. The DUP has always strived to be the party of ordinary working people. We know these people are angry. Thus on behalf of the DUP, I apologise to anyone we have let down.

However an apology is not enough. We will act. The DUP will support the full implementation of the Kelly report. Our party will adopt a transparency agenda on expenses. We will fulfil our pledge to phase out double-jobbing and seek to reduce the size of government.

I stand before you as the leader of the party with the most elected representatives of any of Northern Ireland's parties. Our party grew to this position by gaining the faith of pro-Union voters and we will keep that position by maintaining their faith.

Pro-Union voters are asking were they right to support us in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Myth-making has made people wonder where the DUP stands. Today we will leave them in no doubt where we stand.

People are hurting badly from the recession. The DUP understands the pain people are suffering. People are frustrated by the flaws of mandatory coalition.

The DUP shares the public's frustration. These problems were predictable. In fact the DUP predicted them and this is why we have consistently sought a voluntary coalition. Yet, as we work on these challenges, the future Northern Ireland we want to shape must be considered.

The DUP sought the mantle of leading unionism to transform Northern Ireland. Our vision was a stable, peaceful and fully democratic region. The St Andrews Agreement was the first significant step on that path, but it will not be the last. Today our vision remains unchanged but we set our sights on achieving this goalby 2021, the centenary of Northern Ireland's foundation.

The DUP will shape the Northern Ireland of 2021 through defending educational excellence, helping deprived communities regenerate and reducing government to enable the private sector to flourish.

It will seek to shape the Union by campaigning for a new constitutional settlement based on our cherished value of equal citizenship - a federal UK with a written constitution and Bill of Rights. To achieve this, the DUP will use all political means at its disposal, whether it is in negotiations at Stormont or the opportunities of a tight Westminster vote.

The UUP's strategy of clinging to Cameron's coat-tails will not deliver the change Ulster needs. We must shape our destiny - not hope others will do it. The TUV strategy of collapse and hope for something better will not deliver for the Union.

We must define our future not destroy it. So I ask pro-Union voters to keep the faith, vote for the DUP's 2021 agenda and together we will secure Northern Ireland's second century.

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