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DUP moving ahead with a shadow Assembly, Arlene Foster to say

By Suzanne Breen

Arlene Foster is set to indicate today that the DUP will work with the UK Government on plans for a shadow Assembly to sit at Stormont while power-sharing is suspended.

The DUP leader will confirm that the prospects of a return to devolution in the near future "don't look promising".

She will outline her ideas for an Assembly that would scrutinise legislation and Westminster ministerial actions.

In a speech at the DUP spring policy conference in Ballymena, Mrs Foster will say: "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."

She will also say: "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."

The DUP leader will say that the Secretary of State's budget "had the hallmarks of this party as the resources promised in the confidence-and-supply agreement began to flow".

Without the £410m secured by the DUP, "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 wrong, but that the DUP deliver for everyone in every part of Northern Ireland," Mrs Foster is poised to say.

"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."

The DUP leader will tell delegates that her party is working for everyone in the community.

"If you're stuck every morning in traffic jams on the Westlink or the M1 or M2, the DUP is delivering hundreds of millions for the York Street interchange to make your journey to work a little easier," she will say.

"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 your home or business is struggling with slow broadband, the DUP are delivering £150 million to bring us the best broadband in the UK and boost our economic competitiveness. If you've a loved one who is suffering with a mental health problem, the DUP are delivering more support."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein are "putting their own narrow political interest first".

She is set to say that her party will "focus on defying opponents" by making Northern Ireland work for everyone.

"Having secured a historic election victory, we cannot fall into the trap of complacency," she will add.

Belfast Telegraph

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