Belfast Telegraph

Foster tells Conservative Association meeting 'I care for neighbours in the Republic'

DUP leader Arlene Foster has told a Conservative Association meeting in England that she 'cares for neighbours in the Republic of Ireland' and wants to see a Brexit solution that works for everyone.

Mrs Foster was the guest speaker on Thursday at the Devon Conservative Association. 

She was invited to address the gathering by East Devon MP Hugo Swire who also previously served as a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office.

During her address Mrs Foster said a Brexit solution would need to work for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“Delivering on the decision of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is the most substantial and complex process the Government and Parliament has undertaken in the modern political era," she said.

"We are working with the Government to ensure that as we leave the European Union we do so in a way that is sensible and beneficial to Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. We value the commitment from the Prime Minister that there can be no internal barriers or borders to trade within the UK, and we will not support a withdrawal agreement that separates Northern Ireland economically from the rest of our United Kingdom.

"We want to deliver what the people determined, and however any individual voted two years ago, everyone’s desire should now be to make our exit as successful as we possibly can.

"I am a proud United Kingdom citizen but I care for neighbours in the Republic of Ireland. I want to see an outcome that works for everyone. As I told people in Killarney recently, we are like two semi-detached houses. We are separate but share similar space.”

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said the United Kingdom needed to work together to ensure success.

“We are the party for Northern Ireland but our unionism doesn't end at the Irish Sea. We will always fight hard for the best deal for Northern Ireland but we care about vulnerable people in Bangor, North Wales the same way as those in Bangor, North Down.

"That of course is the very essence of our unionism. Whether English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish, we aren't competitors or rivals in this United Kingdom.

"We are bound together as one. Stronger together than apart.”

Mrs Foster said she wanted to see a prosperous Northern Ireland with the re-establishment of devolution.

“Above all, I want to see a settled community in Northern Ireland. A settled community where people can hold whatever identity- or indeed identities- they wish. Where people can watch and play whatever sport they like. And where people can enjoy whatever culture they want," she said.

"The Unionism I advocate is not narrow or exclusive: it is the opposite. It stands for pluralism and multi-culturism. Unionism embraces diversity.

"The Northern Ireland of the future is one with devolved government. Local people making local decisions. I am deeply troubled that Sinn Fein is holding back the other four parties in Northern Ireland from having a local Executive. Such tactics have been divisive and entirely driven by a narrow party political agenda.”

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