Belfast Telegraph

DUP 'won't be found wanting' on deal with Sinn Fein, says Foster

By Suzanne Breen

Arlene Foster has said her party "will not be found wanting" when it comes to working with Sinn Fein to reach a compromise to restore devolution.

The DUP leader was speaking at a Co-operation Ireland event which she addressed in London last night with Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill.

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

"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 healthcare, 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 no effort should be spared to have devolution restored.

"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.

"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," she said.

The DUP leader said her unionism wasn't narrow or exclusive.

"It stands for pluralism and multiculturalism," she said. 

"Unionism permits and indeed embraces diversity.

"I will always be a unionist, and I cherish much about my unionist culture.

"Others cherish the Irish language and it is right that they are facilitated to do so.

"I have said many times before that I respect the Irish language and those who speak it. 

"All I ask in return is that those of us who are British have their culture and traditions and identity respected as well," she added.

Mrs Foster said it presented the same challenges to have unionists "love the Irish language as it does for republicans to enjoy an Orange parade". In her address, Ms O'Neill said political leaders had a responsibility to build the process of reconciliation and establish a genuine partnership government in Northern Ireland.

"I want to build bridges and heal the wounds of the past," she said.

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

"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."

The Sinn Fein leader said her party was committed to restoring devolution.

"I want the institutions to enjoy the confidence and support of the people they were established to serve," she said.

"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."

Belfast Telegraph

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