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The Union is safe, now let us all get down to business

Last week, I participated in an event at the University of Dundee and answered questions on the future of Northern Ireland. For me it was nice to be back in Dundee - a city where I spent four years studying.

When I was a student there, Northern Ireland was still a by-word for instability and deadlock - in spite of the Belfast Agreement.

I chose to return to Northern Ireland, but many of my peers sought their future elsewhere in the UK, or, indeed, further afield.

Since my return, I have seen the province make sure and steady progress, with the Assembly about to complete its first uninterrupted term in more than 40 years.

In spite of the attempts of dissident republicans to re-ignite the battles of the past, I believe it is the settled will of the vast majority that they will not succeed.

As unionists, we can look to the future with confidence. Northern Ireland will remain inside the UK.

Most people - even non-unionists - recognise that the position of Northern Ireland is settled for the foreseeable future.

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Where do these developments leave unionism under the leadership of the DUP? The answer is: with much more to do.

It is our task to make Northern Ireland the success story it can be. A Northern Ireland, not perceived as the sick man of the Union, but rather a beacon of enterprise, excellence and success.

This is how we can draw back and harness the talents of our best and brightest.

This will be no easy task - considering the axe wielded on our Budget by the UUP's Tory bosses and Alliance's sister party, the Liberal Democrats.

However, the DUP did not achieve what it did by allowing difficulty to give way to despair.

To build this beacon, we must deliver solutions that will improve the standard of life for the whole community. We must build our economy by making Northern Ireland the best place to do business.

We must continue our success in attracting foreign direct investment and bring jobs to Northern Ireland. We must continue to invest in our young people, ensuring that they are well-equipped to enter the job market and secure our reputation for having a highly-skilled workforce.

We must make it a place that people want to settle and raise their families. We must release our huge tourism potential with our natural environment, culture and history at its core.

In straightened times, we must unlock more resources through private finance initiatives. Progress cannot be blocked by ideology; rather we have an obligation to look at flexible solutions to deliver better services without further burdening already hard-pressed taxpayers.

The Northern Ireland Assembly must reduce red tape. The DUP firmly believes in smaller government rather than a large, unwieldy and wasteful government.

That is why the DUP has proposed cutting the number of politicians, departments and quangos.

These decisions are crucial for our future. Northern Ireland will celebrate its centenary in 2021. What we do in the next Assembly term will shape the Northern Ireland of 2021 and beyond.

Our task is to transform Northern Ireland's political structures and our politics. Our task is to ensure Northern Ireland regains the position it once held in the global market - a region that earned its living by trade.

Our task is nothing less than to ensure that, in Northern Ireland's second century, the talented see it as the place to pursue their dreams.


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