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Conservatives offer a new vision for NI

At the start of a year that promises to be even more challenging than 2011 for everyone in Northern Ireland and in the month that the anniversary of Bloody Sunday is marked, with opinions still divided after 40 years, it was refreshing to read Lord Feldman's article in last week's Belfast Telegraph about the Conservative Party's commitment to launch a new party in Northern Ireland.

The ambivalent attitude of successive governments towards politics in this part of the UK has failed to deliver the mature, forward-looking and truly democratic politics that the people of Northern Ireland have long craved and see as the true legacy of the peace process and the five-year-old power-sharing settlement.

Whilst it goes without saying that the sight of our local politicians debating policies for our 'shared community' as opposed to fighting over a disputed past is an entirely welcome development, what I believe today's electorate and I suspect, the next generation want to see is real political progress and delivery as well as a fresh choice on election day.

The arrival of a new local centre-right, pro-union party may fill the vacuum that has slowly been developing over the past 10-20 years and which threatens the emergence of a truly shared community in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance reject centre-right solutions to old problems. The DUP has thus far failed to deliver for all the people of Northern Ireland and doesn't engage seriously with the rest of the UK, whilst the UUP is stuck in the past and absorbed in managing its own decline.

This new party has the potential to reach out to Protestants, Catholics and those from other backgrounds, who have given up voting for the same old faces as well as those who have never voted by offering them a non- sectarian vision of Northern Ireland.