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DUP Leader Arlene Foster's speech to party spring policy conference [Full Text]

Decision: DUP leader Arlene Foster
Decision: DUP leader Arlene Foster

The DUP held its spring conference in Ballymena on Saturday. Below is leader Arlene Foster's speech to delegates.

"We have had a great morning together discussing new ideas about how we can help to make Northern Ireland even better.  It is a sign of a vibrant and dynamic political Party that members exchange ideas, engage with business, with community organisations, and bring forward new policies, the only aim of which are to improve the place that we call home.

"That’s exactly the sort of Party I want the Democratic Unionist Party to be.  I have said before how I want us to become a party of ideas.  I truly believe that if we are to achieve our overarching aim of preserving the Union then we have to concentrate on our ideas and not our ideology and focus on defying our opponents by making Northern Ireland work for everyone.

"Having secured an historic election victory we cannot fall into the trap of complacency.  We must build on that triumph and the best way to do that is to persuade people that they should vote for the DUP not just because we are the biggest Party.  Or because we are best placed to beat Sinn Fein.  But because we have the best ideas.

People starting to see DUP delivering for all in Northern Ireland... what are Sinn Fein delivering?

This week, the Secretary of State placed a Budget for Northern Ireland before the House of Commons.  It was a Budget that had the hallmarks of this Party as the resources promised in the Confidence and Supply Agreement began to flow.  £410 million of additional spending without which a difficult Budget would have been far worse.

People are starting to see that not only were the naysayers who doubted that the Confidence and Supply money was real were very, very wrong but that the DUP deliver for everyone in every part of Northern Ireland.

What are Sinn Fein delivering for our people? The answer is short and simple – absolutely nothing. Sorry, that isn’t entirely fair. Sinn Fein are at least trying to deliver.  They are trying to deliver division and dysfunction.  But we are not going to allow them to hold Northern Ireland to ransom any longer.

We want to see power in the hands of locally elected and locally accountable Ministers.

The best way, by far, to deliver for everyone in Northern Ireland, is through sharing power in a restored Assembly at Stormont. This Party is committed to devolution.  We want to see power in the hands of locally elected and locally accountable Ministers. But in the absence of devolution, the Democratic Unionist Party is finding other ways to deliver for Northern Ireland.

If you’re stuck every morning in traffic jams on the Westlink or the M1 or M2, the DUP is delivering hundreds millions for the York Street Interchange to make your journey to work a little easier.

If you’re waiting for an operation, the DUP are delivering money to alleviate the pressures on our NHS and help you to get the care you need and deserve.

If you’re home or business is struggling with a slow broadband connection, the DUP are delivering £150 million to bring us the best broadband in the UK and boost our economic competitiveness.

And if you’ve a loved one who is suffering with a mental health problem, the DUP are delivering more support.

Whether it’s health or education or jobs or infrastructure, the DUP is prioritising what is important to people of all persuasions in Northern Ireland.

What are Sinn Fein prioritising?  They’re putting their own narrow political interest first.

Prospects of a return of devolution anytime soon doesn’t look promising.

Ministerial decisions being made by the Secretary of State is in no way our preferred outcome.  But it is far better than no decisions being taken at all.

We will continue to work closely with Karen Bradley as she makes good on her commitment to do whatever is necessary to fulfil her majesty’s Government’s responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland including working with her on ways for the Assembly that the people elected last year to have an input.

We must support and encourage the Secretary of State to take those necessary decisions because, as much as we want to see the Assembly and Executive up and running again, let’s face it, the prospects of a return of devolution anytime soon doesn’t look promising.

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