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Boris Johnson hears DUP's Foster set out vision for 'next generation unionism'

Arlene Foster was speaking at a gathering during the Tory conference
Arlene Foster was speaking at a gathering during the Tory conference
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Arlene Foster has told a gathering at the Conservative Party conference that the DUP wants to deliver "next generation unionism" for the 21st century.

The DUP leader was speaking at a reception last night attended by Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister arrived to cheers and shouts of "Boris!"

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds also addressed the 'Together for the Union' event in Manchester, which was chaired by MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

Mr Johnson said that Northern Ireland remained a vital part of the UK. "Let it remain so forever. Let's get Brexit done. Let's get Stormont up and running again," he said.

"Let's get... that threat to the Union, Jeremy Corbyn to step quietly into a figurative rocket and then let us send him into orbit where he belongs. That's our agenda."

Addressing the packed room, Mr Johnson added: "When I look at this sea of happy, eager faces tonight supporting our precious Union, I know it is in good shape and that we unionists are in good heart and that we will prevail."

Mrs Foster said: "In less than two years Northern Ireland will celebrate its centenary, which provides an opportunity to show-case all that is good about Northern Ireland and about the Union.

"The Northern Ireland of today differs markedly to how it was at the founding of the state back in 1921. Or 50 years ago. Even a decade ago.

"The challenges unionism faces will continue to change, and we want to build and develop next generation unionism for that new century."

The DUP leader said the Union was "the best political, social, economic and cultural way forward for every part of the UK".

She said: "Our public services and safety nets like the NHS and welfare are the envy of many across the world. Not forgetting our cultural and economic wealth. With Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP focused on seizing control, our parties must always work together for the benefit of the Union."

Mrs Foster said that her party would "set up a government tomorrow without any preconditions".

She blamed Sinn Fein for the political stalemate at Stormont. "After the last election Sinn Fein presented us with a list of preconditions and refused to nominate their Deputy First Minister until they got their own way. It's time for them to lift their boycott.

"Parties should stand for election and then take their mandate into the Assembly to try and put that mandate into practice -not stand outside and demand their wishes are fulfilled, before they go into government."

The DUP leader denied that her party's confidence-and-supply agreement with the Tories was harming the chances of a deal to restore power-sharing.

"Some try to argue the DUP's relationship with the Conservative Party in Westminster is holding back devolution. This is utter nonsense," she said.

"The £1bn from the confidence-and-supply agreement was a massive help to public services. The Sinn Fein boycott has caused chaos to public services." Turning to Brexit, Mrs Foster said: "As the largest party in Northern Ireland, we want a sensible deal.

"I believe we can work with the Prime Minister and his team to deliver a sensible deal.

"We want to see an agreement reached that we can support and which works for the every part of this wonderful United Kingdom, for all the people of Ireland and the other EU member states."

The DUP leader insisted that no-deal was "no one's preferred outcome and is not of itself a final destination".

Last night Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said a Westminster election would give people "a chance to reject the DUP and the chaos and paralysis they have brought to politics both in the north and in Britain".

She was speaking as Francie Molloy MP was selected to stand in Mid Ulster. Declan Kearney MLA was also selected to stand in South Antrim.

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