Belfast Telegraph

DUP leader says party must engage more to protect unionism

‘How some were treated, too often was a source of shame rather than pride.’

Party leader Arlene Foster at DUP headquarters (David Young/PA)
Party leader Arlene Foster at DUP headquarters (David Young/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The leader of the DUP says the party must engage with the nationalist community and ethnic minorities to strengthen unionism.

Arlene Foster was speaking to party members and supporters in County Antrim on Saturday morning at the Party’s Autumn Policy Forum. The event was called: Vision for Unionism: Beyond 2021.

“Unionism must earn the votes of as broad a coalition as possible,” she said.

“Some may be Unionists of the very smallest u, and some may not even consider themselves unionists at all.”

In order to strengthen unionism, Ms Foster said the party “must engage with any, and all, supporters of the Union”, and people’s party political labels or beliefs would not hold them back from engaging.

“We must engage Northern Ireland’s minority ethnic and new communities,” she said.

“Multi-generational ethnic communities became an intrinsic part of Northern Ireland.

“This diversity has been augmented by the larger migrations of the last 20 years.

“They came to make their own contribution to our renewal.

“They have chosen to make Northern Ireland their home, some as part of their British dream.

“How some were treated, too often was a source of shame rather than pride. 

“Minority ethnic participation in our politics as representatives or voters remains disproportionately low. 

“How can we do more to help involve, integrate and celebrate how these citizens of Northern Ireland enrich our society?”

The party has worked to distance itself from anti-immigration rhetoric from some of its own members in the past.

In March, the DUP stressed that they did not approve a Belfast city councillor’s election leaflets containing controversial immigration pledges.

Cllr Graham Craig distributed leaflets stating he would allocate “local homes for local people” and take “back control of immigration”.

Ms Foster added in her speech that the party must also reach out to the nationalist community, but conceded it would be met with scepticism by members.

“This is the strand of work that will be treated with the greatest scepticism, and will require the longest-term commitment,” she said.

“We are not planting seeds for Unionism in the hope of a quick harvest. We are planting oaks to grow deep roots.”

She later added: “Nationalism believes and abides by historical determinism – ‘our day will come’. 

“It is a comforting belief that allows each generation to think it will be one last heave, one last push, one dramatic turn of events that delivers; one day all will fall into place.

“However, for one hundred years it hasn’t worked. Instead democratic determinism has succeeded. The ballot box has seen off all challenges.

“Nationalism waits on history to end Northern Ireland and our United Kingdom.”

PA

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