Belfast Telegraph

Top Tory at centre of porn and inappropriate advance claims set to attend DUP conference

By Suzanne Breen

Senior Tory cabinet minister Damian Green is to attend the DUP's annual conference in Belfast this weekend.

Mr Green, who has also other engagements in Northern Ireland, is facing allegations that he made an inappropriate advance to a young party activist and previously viewed extreme pornography on his House of Commons computer.

It is claimed the pornography was found in a police raid in 2008. The First Secretary of State, who is de facto Deputy Prime Minister and Theresa May's closest ally, vehemently denies both allegations.

A Whitehall inquiry into the alleged inappropriate advance to Kate Maltby is due to conclude in days. Although he will attend the DUP conference, Mr Green is not due to deliver an address. But Conservative chief whip Julian Smith will give a keynote speech at the event tomorrow afternoon.

The attendance of two senior Tories at the conference symbolises the two parties' intimate working relationship.

Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo will also address the DUP gathering. The party's supply and confidence deal with the Tories at Westminster means that media interest in its conference is at all-time high.

The DUP said more than 100 journalists had sought accreditation for the event compared to around 20 in previous years and security has been tightened.

The conference's theme is 'Standing up for Northern Ireland - the next generation'. Newly-elected Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough councillor Jordan Greer will be featured in "new voice" videos.

Conference speakers include DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly and MEP Diane Dodds.

Last year's event was Arlene Foster's first as DUP leader.

Just weeks later, her party was engulfed in the cash-for-ash scandal which brought down the Executive in January.

The 2016 gathering ended with the party faithful taking to the stage and singing "Arlene's on fire" as Mrs Foster joined in the dancing. This year's event is likely to be more sedate in keeping with the party's role in holding the balance of power at Westminster.

In her speech, Mrs Foster is expected to defend the record of the power-sharing institutions.

"It's popular to bash Stormont and to criticise devolution. To say it has delivered nothing," she will say.

"But the truth is that during devolved government - while far from perfect - there were record levels of inward investment, scores of new schools built, miles of new roads constructed and hundreds of millions more spent on health."

The DUP leader will also reaffirm her party's commitment to devolution: "While we have more influence than ever before at Westminster we also want to see our local institutions functioning and delivering for the people of Northern Ireland.

"We're about building for the next generation. A properly functioning devolved government is the best foundation."

Mrs Foster will state that her party believes government must "protect people, provide the vulnerable with a safety net and act when and where markets fail to serve the people properly".

She will pledge that the DUP's mission is to affirm the British identity "upholding the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom".

But she will add: "Our mission is also about ensuring that people all across the UK can have a good life too. That's why our MPs used their influence in the budget to ensure all regions of the UK got a better deal.

"I want everyone in Northern Ireland regardless of whether they're unionists or nationalists or don't consider themselves to be either, to enjoy a good quality of life and to be able to pass on to the next generation a better Northern Ireland filled with opportunities for all."

See Comment, Page 33

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph