Arlene Foster says SF must decide on DUP deal or direct rule
Leader tells faithful at annual conference Sinn Féin must respect ‘our British culture’
Arlene Foster: “This party will conclude a balanced deal but we will not be party to a one-sided arrangement that rewards intransigent behaviour.”
Sinn Féin must decide between doing business with the DUP or allowing British direct rule Ministers run Northern Ireland, said DUP leader Arlene Foster at her annual party conference on Saturday.
Ms Foster also disclosed that on Brexit she has written to the heads of government of 27 European Union countries insisting that Northern Ireland will fully quit the EU at the same time as England, Scotland and Wales.
Ms Foster, referring to one of the key obstacles to a deal to restore Stormont, said she respected the Irish language but that Sinn Féin in return must respect “our British culture”.
She said that over the last few months the DUP has been working hard in the talks with Sinn Féin to reinstate the Northern Executive and Assembly.
“Some progress was made. But that can only be built upon if all sides are genuinely serious about obtaining a deal that is balanced,” the DUP leader told some 600 delegates at the party conference in the La Mon Hotel on the outskirts of Belfast on Saturday.
“This party will conclude a balanced deal but we will not be party to a one-sided arrangement that rewards intransigent behaviour,” she said.
“Northern Ireland needs a government and we cannot continue without Ministers. Time is short and those in Sinn Féin blocking the restoration of local decision-making need to decide whether they want to do business with us or have direct rule Ministers in place,” she added.
“I still believe that devolution is the best way to govern Northern Ireland but to do that in a way that delivers for all of our people we need serious partners in government.”
Ms Foster accused Sinn Féin of glorying “in the murder of the IRA” at its ardfheis in Dublin. “Today my thoughts are with the victims of Enniskillen, Kingsmill and La Mon and the many thousands of innocent victims who have conducted themselves with such dignity over the decades,” she said.
“Yet when you listen to Sinn Féin they blame everyone else. It’s time Sinn Féin got serious,” she added.
Ms Foster said if powersharing is to be restored it must happen on a sustainable basis. As regards Sinn Féin’s demand for an Irish language act she referred to how in the summer she said she was prepared “to legislate for the Irish language in the context of legislating for the plurality of cultures that exist in Northern Ireland”.
“The Irish language is spoken and enjoyed by thousands of people in all parts of Northern Ireland. It does no damage to our unionism or the union we cherish,” she added.
“I respect the Irish language and those who speak it. However, respect isn’t a two-way street. Respect works both ways. It is time that Sinn Féin started to respect our British culture,” said Ms Foster. “For too long they have shown nothing but disdain and disrespect for the national flag, the royal family, the armed forces, British symbols, the constitutional reality and the very name of this country.”
She added: “So we are up for respect. And we’re up for rights. Republicans like to lecture us about rights. They’re fond of rights now. They weren’t so concerned about that most fundamental of rights – the right to life – during the Troubles.
“We are for rights. We respect rights. What we oppose is using the cloak of rights as a Trojan horse designed to break unionists.”
Ms Foster said that “regardless of some of the propaganda the truth is the union is secure. And no matter how many times we are told that the ‘North isn’t British’, Northern Ireland is British. And British it will remain”.
No hard Border
The DUP leader said that listening to some people on Brexit would convey the impression that “life as we know it will end”.
She didn’t want a hard Border. “We want our Border to remain open for people to move freely North and South for work, for education and as tourists. We want to see continued trading across the Border the economic interest of our two countries.
“We want a sensible Brexit, a Brexit that works for Northern Ireland and for the United Kingdom. However, we will not support any arrangements that create barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom or any suggestion that Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, will have to mirror European regulations.”
Ms Foster said she had written to the heads of governments of the 27 EU countries about the DUP’s views. “The economic reality for our economy is that our most important trading relationship is with the rest of the United Kingdom and we will do nothing that puts that at any risk in any way.
“We welcome the assurances from the prime minister and the UK Brexit minister that no such internal barriers will be countenanced and that as we joined the European Community