Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster: Restoration of Executive is not about winners and losers

DUP leader writes exclusively for the Belfast Telegraph

By Arlene Foster

I have heard it said that the unprecedented position that the DUP now finds itself in at Westminster means we do not want or need a return of devolution. Whatever initial appeal such a view may have, it fails to take account of our longer-term best interests. The DUP has always believed in devolution and I want to see it restored immediately.

Serious negotiations are always marked by signs of intent and willingness to find agreements that both sides can support. If we are to secure the return of devolution there must be a willingness on all sides to reach out in order to secure a durable outcome.

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Sinn Fein have said they will not go back into office until so-called previous agreements are implemented. Many of the issues cited are not in fact part of previous agreements with my party and, in some cases, the issues they pursue were not part of agreements with any party or government in the past. I understand and appreciate, however, the need to deal with matters of culture and language in a mature way that aims to engender real respect for the multitude of cultures that co-exist in Northern Ireland today.

To make progress we can either enter another round of talks -parties can restate their positions whilst waiting lists grow longer, investment opportunities are missed and Northern Ireland's voice continues to be absent from Brexit negotiations.

Or we can try something different - I have put forward a common-sense solution that can give us the Executive we need and resolve outstanding issues.

I have proposed that we restore the Executive immediately. Ministers can be back in post so that decisions can be made and Northern Ireland can have a government again.

But we also agree to bring forward legislation to address culture and language issues within a time-limited period. If we fail to do that in a way that commands cross-community support then the Executive would cease to exist.

It is an offer made in good faith with the interests of the people of Northern Ireland at heart.

We should not permit our political disagreements to get in the way of what needs to be done right now in striking a budget, in pressing ahead with much-needed health reforms and in attracting jobs and investment.

Given the size of Northern Ireland and the scale of the challenges we face, we will only succeed if we all move forward together. Agreement can only be achieved when there is recognition that the support of both unionists and nationalists is required if they are to stick.

That is how we succeeded previously.

A winners and losers approach to discussions will only guarantee failure in both the short and the long-term.

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