Belfast Telegraph

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Published 20/11/2009

It has been traditional at DUP conferences for speakers to recite sacred and profound texts. I'm going to break with tradition to quote one of comedian Harry Enfield's catchphrases - "calm down, calm down".

That is my message, not just to this party, but also to the political system and all the commentators.

Yes, things are tricky at Stormont at present. But we are going to work our way through them. Somebody has to do it - and I don't see anyone else rising to the challenge.

As for this party, let's disprove the allegation that we are looking over our shoulders at the TUV.

They have their own problems to worry about, not least in trying to sell the attractions of direct rule.

People haven't forgotten the days of Peter Hain. It's time for a reality check. For any unionist who claims to want devolution, power-sharing with north-south and east-west dimensions is the only show in town.

You can dream about going back to pre-1972 majority rule if you want, but you will have to wake up.

The time when a big-house unionist party ran the whole show was not always paradise on earth. The DUP was set up as a reaction against it.

Nor can we decide for nationalists who they want to represent them. That's their call. So let's take time to reflect. Think about where we are today as a society, the progress made and the many opportunities that lie before us.

There are tough challenges too. Life can be like that. Politics can certainly be like that. I'm big enough to admit that some mistakes have been made over the past year, for instance, how we handled the expenses issue.

We'll learn the lessons and move on. We'll also continue to review our approach to media relations. Being in a permanent state of war with newsrooms is not an ideal situation.

I'll end with another quote, this time from High School Musical: "We're all in this together." That could be a new motto, not just for this party, but for the Stormont administration we help lead.

My goal is a true partnership government that really works together, making a real difference to people's lives. I know we can do it. It has to be done. And this party will not shirk the challenge.

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