We must be prepared to take difficult decisions to restore Stormont: Dodds
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has warned that "difficult decisions" lie ahead for his party if it is to reach a deal with Sinn Fein to restore devolution.
Indicating that the DUP leadership was prepared to make a significant compromise with republicans, he stressed that unionists must be "alive to changes in demography and shifts in society" in Northern Ireland.
While Mr Dodds celebrated his party's success in becoming kingmakers at Westminster, he said some may believe it should just "sit back" and enjoy its power there.
"That would be a mistake," he told the party's annual conference in Belfast.
"Of course there is no pressure on us to do a deal and any agreement will have to be politically balanced, but it is in Northern Ireland's long-term interests to have a functioning Executive.
"That doesn't mean we rush into a deal that is not right and it doesn't mean we need to do a deal overnight, but our goal should be to see Stormont up and running again.
"That will inevitably mean taking difficult decisions, but I believe that this party has always shown that the deals we have made in the past have been to Northern Ireland's long-term advantage."
As the "only meaningful unionist party left", the DUP needs to take decisions "not just for the next few months, but for the next few decades", Mr Dodds said.
The DUP had to take "a longer and a broader view" than ever before.
"We need to take decisions which can command the support not just of our core DUP vote, but support right across unionism and right across Northern Ireland," he added.
"We need to be alive to changes in demography and shifts in society and to make sure we are able to meet the challenges that lie ahead."
Voicing his total support for party leader Arlene Foster, Mr Dodds said the test of any leader was how they performed in hard times.
And he criticised the media's treatment of her.
"There's a lot of talk about fake news, but if anyone wanted to see such a phenomenon in action they could do worse than review how Arlene has been treated in 2017," he claimed.
"Arlene, the truth is these people did not come for you because you are weak.
"They came for you because you are strong!
"And though it has been testing and trying at times - both for you and your family - you have come through this stronger and better than ever. Those who thought you could be browbeaten, hounded or harassed out of politics didn't reckon on the will and the resolve of a unionist woman from Fermanagh."
He added: "At a time when other political leaders are heading for the exit - stage left. Arlene isn't going away."
Mr Dodds claimed that Sinn Fein had collapsed the Stormont institutions "because the Assembly hadn't become the conveyor belt to a united Ireland" republicans had promised their voters.
He added: "Even now they are afraid to return to the Assembly to make their case and to fight their corner without the outcome of key issues being pre-cooked in advance.
"That is not the sign of a strong movement, but of one that lacks the confidence of its convictions… and as we all know, they have plenty of convictions."