Belfast Telegraph

It's a pretty sad fact the DUP's raison d'etre is about trying to destroy other unionist parties

By Mike Nesbitt

Arlene Foster's latest utterings about other unionist parties sadden me, but are of no surprise coming from a DUP leader.

We have naturally put a lot of focus on the appointment of David Gordon from the BBC as the Executive's new spin doctor, but Arlene Foster's latest, very personal attacks on the other leaders of unionism confirm she is being advised by the same special advisers who worked with her predecessors, Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson.

In my early days as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party I was keen to get close to the DUP, to understand how they work, and Peter Robinson allowed me access to his engine room, which was populated by advisers, not elected representatives. Those same special advisers, particularly Tim (Johnston) and Richard (Bullick) have an extraordinary influence, and that clearly remains the case.

More: Arlene Foster letting Sinn Fein off the hook by focusing attacks on unionist rivals, claims UUP leader Mike Nesbitt

I regret they make it impossible not to react to attacks from fellow unionists, not least our current First Minister.

They encourage the First Minister to attack other unionist parties, yet turn a blind eye to the activities of her Sinn Fein Executive colleagues.

The DUP fought election campaigns based on stopping Martin McGuinness and blocking ministerial solo runs, but as soon as the election was over, she and her DUP colleagues directed their fire on other unionists. I think that says all we need to know.

The DUP's whole being is about trying to destroy other unionist parties.

The Ulster Unionist Party has a solid track record of co-operating with other unionist parties when it is in the best interests of everyone in this country.

It is a sad reflection that it wasn't that long ago that Mrs Foster herself was working her own constituency of Fermanagh-South Tyrone, canvassing for Tom Elliott, to help deliver a strong united unionist vote and retake the Westminster seat from Sinn Fein.

She can criticise me all she likes, but my party colleagues and I will continue to raise important issues such as Nama, Brexit and pension rights for women. They can stick their heads in the sand over Nama or hope that someone else pulls a rabbit out of the hat to deal with Brexit, but that wont stop us raising these issues, no matter how uncomfortable it makes things for the DUP-Sinn Fein Executive, which is engulfed by paranoia and control freakery.

First Minister Foster openly admitted that the formation of the official Opposition has forced the Executive to try to up its game. We will make sure that Mrs Foster and her DUP-Sinn Fein Executive colleagues are kept on their toes. That's a promise.

Mike Nesbitt is leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

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