Arlene Foster has warned at the Assembly election on May 5th a “swing of only two votes in every hundred from the DUP to Sinn Féin would see Martin McGuinness become the next First Minister”.
Addressing the DUP Spring conference in Limavady, Co Derry, the DUP leader said it was moving “towards the start of the most important election campaign in years” which will shape the future of Northern Ireland and “determine who will be the First Minister to chart this course”.
Ms Foster said there was a renewed sense of pride in Northern Ireland, not just from unionists, and that much progress had been made in society.
“Twenty years ago who would have believed that Northern Ireland would become better known for golfers than guns?” she said.
Ms Foster said the DUP needs the strongest mandate possible to implement her plans to build “a stronger, safer, more stable Northern Ireland”.
She will be putting herself forward to be returned as First Minister at the upcoming election.
“108 MLAs will be elected but in reality the next First Minister will either be me or Martin McGuinness. Your vote will decide. It’s that simple,” she said.
Ms Foster spoke of her record reflecting she would work with anyone in the best in interests of Northern Ireland “but make no mistake, Martin McGuinness and I have very different visions of the future of this country”.
“I want to work with our national government to bring about a better future, not against it,” she said.
‘Strengthen the Union’
She said she wanted to remember the past, not rewrite it and ensure a “fair and balanced peace process”.
“It is a choice between his vision of taking this province out of the United Kingdom and my vision to strengthen the Union.
“What Northern Ireland needs now, more than ever, is strong unionist leadership.”
Ms Foster described politics in Northern Ireland as “tough and brutal” and said the Assembly election would be very close.
She said Sinn Féin’s “real agenda in the May election is to shred and split unionist votes” and suggested the party “didn’t make the breakthrough they wanted in the South and will do all they can to take Northern Ireland”.
On power sharing with Sinn Féin Ms Foster called it “difficult but it is a price worth paying to keep Northern Ireland Moving Forward”.
“But if you think it is difficult now just imagine what it would be like with a Sinn Féin First Minister and the Executive dominated by republicans,” she said.
She encouraged DUP activists when canvassing to remind people “that their vote matters and their vote will determine if Martin McGuinness or myself wake up as First Minister on the sixth of May”.
“Let us go out and make sure we can commemorate the sacrifice of 1916 and celebrate the centenary of Northern Ireland with unionism still in the driving seat,” she said.
Ms Foster also set out five key priorities for her “plan for a stronger Northern Ireland”.
They are: to create more jobs and increasing incomes; protect family budgets; prioritise spending on the health service; raise standards of education for everyone and invest in infrastructure for the future.