I took a trip up to the DUP Conference yesterday to interview some of the key figures within the party. I spoke with several Ministers namely Simon Hamilton, Edwin Poots and Arlene Foster. Just after her conference speech I spoke with the Enterprise Minister and possible future leader, Arlene Foster.
We spoke about a variety of issues from the European elections to her feud with Phil Flanagan MLA and her shift from the UUP to the DUP.
Below are some select quotes from the piece but it’s worth having a listen to all of it as it is only 11 minutes long.
On the party running a second candidate for the European Election;
It has been talked about and we haven’t completely decided on that issue as yet and we will come to a determination on that soon.
On Phil Flanagan’s criticism of her record of job creation;
It’s utter rubbish. In fact one of the things we did at the start of the recession was to create the jobs fund because people were saying to us there maybe high level jobs available but one of the difficulties particularly for the unskilled is that we can’t find work. So the jobs fund was created to try and fill that gap. So I’m criticised for not providing jobs of a particular level for people but when I bring an intervention to bring those jobs about I’m criticised as well so people cannot have it both ways.
On job creation west of the Bann;
When Belfast is competing it’s competing against Dublin and London and other capital cities. So people have to understand that and I think most reasonable people do understand that. In regards to the west of the province if you look at what we are doing there we are trying to encourage our indigenous companies…we’re looking at building up the infrastructure there with our gas network extension which is critical for energy intensive companies like Dale Farm…Phil’s criticism was that Invest NI haven’t brought a single FDI to Fermanagh. Visits don’t bring jobs, positivity and what the region is doing brings jobs and that’s the point I was trying to make to Phil.
On the pending flag march in Belfast City Centre;
My message of course is to keep the protest peaceful. I have always said that people have a right to protest regardless of what their issue is…but it is and has to be peaceful number one. People can’t feel intimidated, people need to be able to walk about the city centre and do their business…and as well as that I would for there to be engagement the traders and those who are organising the protests next week. Because I think that conversation are good and people have to understand the impact that each other’s having on themselves.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs