Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson's final challenge to DUP to 'move beyond border politics'

By Liam Clarke

Peter Robinson has challenged his party to move beyond the politics of the border poll.

In a rousing speech, he told delegates at the DUP annual conference that "Ulster is no longer at the crossroads - we're on the motorway to a clear and better future."

It came 48 hours after Mr Robinson announced he would be stepping down as First Minister and leader of the DUP.

In his final conference speech as leader, he urged the DUP to look to the future.

"If we are to retain our position in the leadership of unionism we must connect with the next generation. To do that we need to look forward to the future and not backwards to the past," Mr Robinson said.

"In just over five years' time Northern Ireland will celebrate its centenary.

"Every poll and every survey suggests that the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is more secure than ever."

There was no mistaking his support for Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds to lead the party, and both were praised in his speech.

"I wanted to make sure that I was handing over the reins of a political process that was stable and secure for the long term," he added.

"After a seemingly endless process I am delighted that we have finally reached agreement on the way forward. We have resolved all those toxic issues that threatened the continuation of devolution."

He recalled that his seven years as First Minister was the longest stretch leading Stormont since Viscount Brookeborough, who was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland for the two decades before 1963.

However, Mr Robinson gave short shrift to Lord Brookeborough's old party, the UUP.

Nowadays they couldn't change anything, he joked, not even a light bulb.

"I have lived in the DUP from the day of its birth," he added.

"I recall the endless hours shaping its structure and message.

"I remember my nomadic existence in the party's early years as I travelled the highways and byways to build up its branches and membership.

"I still have memories of manoeuvring up narrow and dark laneways to the most remote and unlikely of meeting places in which any political party has ever gathered."

Mr Robinson also warned of the dangers of direct rule.

He warned that under it, our destiny would be "settled elsewhere by those who showed little concern for our anxieties in the past and do not have an inborn vested interest in our future".

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph