Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster wants to see a 'settled community' in Northern Ireland as she warns DUP will not be 'found wanting' in reaching Stormont compromise

By Claire Williamson

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said she wants to see a "settled community" in Northern Ireland as she warned her party will not be "found wanting" in working with Sinn Fein to reach a compromise to restore Stormont.

Mrs Foster was speaking at the Co-operation Ireland Chairman's annual dinner in London with Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill.

The DUP leader said her party "stand ready to engage actively and wholeheartedly in talks" to restore devolution but it can be done "only through compromise".

Mrs Foster said: "For all our differences – and differences will remain – I want to see us getting Stormont up and running again so that our focus can be on the Budget, on our economy, on health, on education and on Brexit.

"I met with the Secretary of State yesterday morning with Nigel and the rest of our team, and we continue to stand ready to engage actively and wholeheartedly in talks to find the solutions that can restore the institutions on a stable and sustainable basis.

"It goes without saying that any agreement has to have the support of unionism and nationalism.

"It will not be achieved through rhetoric. Only through compromise; only together. My Party will not be found wanting.

"Our people whether they vote unionist or nationalist need decisions urgently on health care, education and all the other vital public services. I am determined that they will have Ministers in place to see this is done. That is what the people deserve."

Mrs Foster said "above all" she wants to see a "settled community" in Northern Ireland.

"A settled community where people can hold whatever identity- or indeed identities- they wish", Mrs Foster said.

"Where people can watch and play whatever sport they like.

"And where people can enjoy whatever culture they want.

"I’m not naïve. I don’t believe that, whatever political progress we make, it will all of a sudden be translated into perfect harmony amongst our people.  It will still present the same challenges to have many unionists love the Irish language as it does for republicans to enjoy an Orange parade.  But what we can do better is respect each other’s cultures and traditions."

Mrs Foster added: "If we begin to genuinely respect each other and our different identities then we can achieve a settled community in a way which we haven’t experienced before."

Mrs O'Neill said political leaders have a "special responsibility" to establish a "partnership government which delivers for all".

She said: "I want to build bridges and heal the wounds of the past.

“I want a unionist partner so we can lead this crucial effort together.

“I have been working to have the political institutions restored on the basis of genuine power sharing.

“There is a special responsibility on political leadership to bridge the divide between the people we represent, and establish a genuine partnership government which delivers for all.

“Irish nationalism and unionism must reach a political agreement through respectful dialogue that will move us beyond the impasse of the present into a brighter future.

“To achieve that, we must explore how we can accommodate each other’s rights - available to citizens elsewhere in Britain and the South of Ireland - in a manner that does not demand the surrender of the cultural or traditional identity of the other.

"We need to transcend the difficulties of the past and give all our people an opportunity to look again at a future beyond sectarianism, division and suspicion.”

Mrs O'Neill said Sinn Fein is "committed" to making Stormont work.

She said: “I want the institutions to enjoy the confidence and support of the people they were established to serve.

“I want them to deliver fairly for all our people based on the principles of equality and mutual respect on which they were founded.

“Is this achievable in the time ahead? Yes, I believe it is. Sinn Fein is a party of dialogue.

“We believe and know the value of talking. We know the value of listening.

“I am in no doubt that it is in the people’s interest to have a strong, stable and effective government in the North of Ireland working in conjunction with all of the institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement to maximise their potential.

“That remains our priority.”

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