Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster: It is time to set aside the faux outrage and get on with business

By Arlene Foster

The Prime Minister's decision to prorogue Parliament for an extra four days is democratic and entirely sensible.

After all, the current Parliamentary session has extended over three calendar years and now holds the record as the longest session since the English Civil War.

A new session will be opened by a Queen's Speech and will enable us to review our Confidence and Supply Agreement and ensure Northern Ireland's priorities align with the Prime Minister's.

We want to see a better legislative programme which can help improve our schools, hospitals and our roads, as well as making our streets safer.

Those shouting the loudest about the Prime Minister are missing the mood of the public. Men and women trying to get on with their lives are tired of the process arguments.

They want us to get on with tackling waiting lists and crime, they want more money for schools and more investment in our infrastructure. They don't want us to refight old battles.

In the summer of 2017 you elected 10 DUP MPs to speak up and deliver for Northern Ireland.

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Those votes enabled us to form a Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Conservative Party and secure one billion pounds more for our schools, roads and hospitals.

We are using our position in Westminster to deliver a better deal for Northern Ireland. No other party in Northern Ireland has delivered a single extra brass penny for your local school or hospital. Money alone will not solve our problems though.

We need a local government with ministers.

Ironically Sinn Fein, the party most outraged by a four-day proroguing, is the same party that doesn't take its seats in Westminster and which is blocking the Assembly being restored for the last two and a half years.

Rather than faux outrage about a new Parliamentary session in Westminster, its time for those blocking the return of Stormont to lift their boycott and get ministers appointed.

The faux outrage wasn't just confined to Sinn Fein. Others cried "constitutional outrage" or claimed that it "undermined democracy".

Yet those same people had no such qualms last January when the Speaker set aside all Parliamentary precedent, apparently even against the advice even of the Commons Clerk. When some local representatives today are gravely warning that Parliament must not be ignored, they carefully ignore the fact they have spent a great deal of time and effort campaigning to do precisely that.

On each of the three "meaningful votes", Parliament rejected Theresa May's withdrawal agreement and the backstop contained within it.

After each one of those clear and overwhelming Parliamentary defeats, we heard no such warnings that Parliament's view must be heeded.

Indeed, Parliament explicitly stated through the 'Brady Amendment' that a solution could be found by replacing the backstop with alternative arrangements.

Such express wishes of Parliament were happily ignored by some who now find themselves outraged by the Government's proposal to bring forward a new domestic agenda in Parliament. The backstop, it seems, has been imbued with such mythical status that it is immune in the minds of some to any kind of Parliamentary rejection or even daring to suggest that it has been a stubborn refusal to look beyond the backstop which has been the single greatest factor in making a no-deal Brexit the possibility that it is today.

It is time for everyone to set aside the faux outrage and get on with the business that the public expect us to do.

We will continue to always seek the best outcome for Northern Ireland, and that also includes during the next session of Parliament following the Queen's Speech.

The £1bn of extra investment in vital public services has not cured all of the problems which Northern Ireland faces, but the action taken by the DUP and the crucial additional finance secured has made a real difference.

There are schools right across Northern Ireland which would have been forced to cease breakfast and homework clubs or other provisions had funding not been secured in the Confidence and Supply Agreement to allow the Extended Schools Programme to continue.

There are 200,000 trips on the Assisted Rural Transport scheme that would not have happened had funding not been delivered through Confidence & Supply Agreement. Around 45,000 people would not have been assessed or treated had there not been investment in Elective Care waiting lists.

That is real delivery. That is what we will continue to focus on.

It's time other caught up.

Whilst others are searching for soundbites and relevance, DUP MPs will be working for and delivering for Northern Ireland.

Arlene Foster is leader of the DUP

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