Belfast Telegraph

Unionism must be set for challenges ahead, says Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster

By David Young

DUP leader Arlene Foster will today spell out the challenges facing unionism in the post-Brexit era, and call on supporters to build what she calls "Next Generation Unionism".

Speaking at a party policy forum in Antrim, Mrs Foster will urge party members to reach out to every community in Northern Ireland .

She will set out the need to engage with nationalists.

"The challenges unionism faces evolve and will be different in the decades to come than they were in 1921, or in the years I grew up in," Mrs Foster will say.

"Supporters of the Union come in all shapes and sizes. In the years ahead, we have to be as relevant and attractive to the teenager at college, as to the couple with a young family in Belfast, and to the pensioner in a fold in a rural village.

"Unionism must earn the votes of as broad a coalition as possible. Some may be unionists of the very smallest u, and some may not even consider themselves unionists at all."

The Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA will tell supporters that her party must engage with the minority ethnic and new communities, and praised their contribution and commitment to the renewal of Northern Ireland and pursuit of what she called "the British dream".

She will say: "Multi-generational ethnic communities have become an intrinsic part of Northern Ireland.

"This diversity has been augmented by the larger migrations of the last 20 years. Many came even in our most torrid days. More came as we built and enjoyed our richly deserved peace.

"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?" she will ask.

Mrs Foster also calls on her party activists to engage with the nationalist community

She will say: "This is the strand of work that will be treated with the greatest scepticism, and will require the longest-term commitment, a generational commitment.

"We are not planting seeds for unionism in the hope of a quick harvest. We are planting oaks to grow deep roots, and it is future generations, who will reap the benefit of our work."

Mrs Foster will also reaffirm her confidence in the future of the UK after Brexit.

She will say the UK's "inherent strength" is its ability to evolve.

"It has consistently achieved the balance between change and tradition," she will say.

"On leaving the European Union, such a process will occur again as our institutions adapt to the new future the United Kingdom will build on the global stage."

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