Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster hit with 'man flu' at DUP manifesto launch - party says leader too ill to take Press questions

DUP leader Arlene Foster was too ill to take questions from the media at her party's manifesto launch a spokesman said after the politician admitted she had been hit with the dreaded "man flu".

The DUP officially launched its election manifesto at the Stormont Hotel, in Belfast, on Monday morning.

Before she began her speech Mrs Foster said she had "man flu". A DUP spokesman later told the media Mrs Foster was not well enough to take questions.

During the launch she cited a recent LucidTalk poll which found that Sinn Fein and the DUP were "neck-and-neck".

Mrs Foster told supporters there was a "very real prospect" Sinn Fein could emerge as the largest political party in Northern Ireland and a Sinn Fein first minister would be a "hugely significant world-wide propaganda boost".

She added: "It would give Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein a hugely significant worldwide propaganda boost just months after nationalism's worst election since 1993 and would undermine the unionist confidence which is being rebuilt after so many years in decline.

"Our job is to make sure that does not happen."

<Arlene Foster manifesto speech >

Following the election on March 2 there will likely be a lengthy period of negotiations between the political parties.

Mrs Foster said she will lead her party, along with deputy leader Nigel Dodds, into these negotiations.

The talks will include the divisive issue on how to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland's Troubles.

The manifesto included 10 commitments the party had ahead of the negotiations to get the devolved institutions up and running.

Mrs Foster insisted the party will not permit "the rewriting of the past or the persecution of the security forces".

Included was pledges to avoid the return of direct rule and that they were committed to working "constructively and in partnership with all those who are in the Executive after the election".

The manifesto also pledged to "respond positively" to any proposals to increase transparency and accountability to help the institutions function more effectively as well as "oppose any border poll outside the terms of the Belfast Agreement".

Mrs Foster said it was "inexplicable, sad and shameful that Mike Nesbitt would urge people to transfer people to transfer to the SDLP ahead of other unionists".

The DUP leader described the March 2 vote as the "most important in a generation".

BBC's Gareth Gordon said Arlene Foster refused to take questions from the Press as she had been "struck down by the cold stroke man flu".

Stormont's institutions collapsed in January after serious flaws were uncovered in a botched renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme, which could cost taxpayers £400 million.

A snap election was called after Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister in protest at the DUP's handling of the RHI scandal.

Mrs Foster claimed Sinn Fein "precipitated a crisis" so they could deal directly with the UK government because the party is unable to deal with the DUP in negotiations.

She did not mention the RHI scandal in her manifesto speech.

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