Foster “Time and again there is a narrative that blames everyone equally. This narrative must be challenged”

DUP Leader, Arlene Foster was speaking to party supporters this evening making the following comments

On devolution:

“Northern Ireland has now been without an effective government since the start of the year. Since the March Assembly election we have been engaged in several rounds of discussions with Sinn Fein and the other Northern Ireland parties to re-establish the local Executive. In recent weeks those discussions have intensified and while solid progress has been made in some areas differences do remain and hurdles have yet to be overcome.

For our part we are determined to try to achieve an agreement that can be supported by unionists and nationalists. Nowhere is this more important than in the area of how we deal with Cultural identity and associated languages. If we are to build a society that can move forward sustainably then we must be able to demonstrate to one another that no one culture can have dominance over the other.”

On talks:

“One element of the talks is that any new Executive must be restored on a sustainable basis and all parties who share that view must insist on that being the case. The DUP would have been in an Executive yesterday, would have been in an Executive today and would be in an Executive tomorrow without precondition and at the end of August I offered to run the Executive and talks in tandem.

If others insist in negotiations first and negotiations only, as they have, then the DUP must deal with that. However, those insisting on that route will find us as resolute in those negotiations as we have been in every other negotiation. We have an experienced team who have a track record of knowing how to secure a good deal.”

On talks speculation within unionism:

“The DUP team has seen every negotiating tactic and trick there is. Predictions of agreements and false briefings will not bounce the DUP. Parties playing games with proposals put forward one day and withdrawn the next won’t make the DUP blink either. Above the party politics, Unionism’s choice is not between saying yes to anything or no to everything. There is a middle path of saying yes to the right thing at the right time. This has been the DUP approach and it has delivered more for Unionism and Northern Ireland than any other strategy.

Any talks outcomes will be judged against the criteria we published in our March Assembly election manifesto. We will not however be a party to facilitating an outcome that is one sided in nature and not in the best interests of Northern Ireland.”

On Sinn Fein:

“It is Sinn Fein, and Sinn Fein alone, stopping issues like health and education being dealt with by local Ministers. Time and again there is a narrative that blames everyone equally. This narrative must be challenged.

If Sinn Fein is unable or unwilling to enter an Executive on a sensible basis then it will be imperative on the Secretary of State to bring forward a budget for the wider good governance of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland needs government and if that cannot be achieved at Stormont then Westminster will be required to provide it.”

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

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