Belfast Telegraph

Confident Foster makes a positive and compelling case for her beloved Union with speech in the SNP's backyard

Editor's Viewpoint

No one can doubt Arlene Foster's unionist credentials. As she made clear in her speech in Scotland last night, she is unionist not merely by choice but because it is in her DNA.

She is also an ardent royalist and feels that her position as the leader of unionism in Northern Ireland makes her ideally placed to be a cheerleader for the Union.

Given the personal and party political pressure she has been under in recent months - the RHI scandal and the success of Sinn Fein in the Assembly elections in March - this was a remarkably confident speech. Rather than reacting to events as unionism is prone to do, she sets out the case for the Union in the most positive terms.

While it is a speech that would go down well with unionist audiences in Northern Ireland, Mrs Foster showed courage in going to Scotland to press her case at a time when the overwhelmingly dominant Scottish Nationalist Party continues to seek a second referendum on independence there. Mrs Foster is trying to persuade the Scots that their future, like that of the people of Northern Ireland, is best served in retaining the Union. For, as she points out, the demand for Scottish independence is a greater threat to the Union, at least in the short to medium-term, than demands for a border poll.

Although the speech was obviously penned before the EU made it clear that if Irish unity is ever achieved, then this part of the island would automatically be readmitted - a message that must encourage those who pursue unity - Mrs Foster is only too aware of the threats to the Union and wants to rally those who wish to see the UK remain as a single entity.

Her speech would not have seemed out of place had it been delivered by Theresa May, who wants the UK to deliver an agreed bargaining position to the EU when the Brexit negotiations begin in earnest. That it should come from someone living in the most westerly constituency in the UK shows the strength of the Union's bonds, and Mrs Foster delivers a compelling case for the continuation of the United Kingdom.

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