“Prior to the DUP becoming the largest political party in Northern Ireland and consequently negotiating for unionists, we were told there were only two options available for the province: Belfast Agreement devolution or direct rule. Neither of these prospects were to unionism’s advantage. Since 2003 the DUP has crafted, pursued and delivered a third way.
We have always believed devolution was important but an Executive couldn’t include parties associated with still armed and active paramilitary organisations, or unaccountable and uncontrollable Ministers. Equally direct rule with an expanding role for Dublin was entirely unacceptable to unionists. It was bad enough in 1985, without becoming even greener. Those who imagine direct rule is the way forward for Northern Ireland are naïve in the extreme. It was imperative that unionists secured control over the province’s affairs.
Recent developments regarding academic selection are further evidence that devolution today is fundamentally different to the failed Trimble-Empey version attempted intermittently between 1999 and 2002. Slowly but surely it is dawning on those who resisted it most that now it the Executive which is in charge not disparate Ministers acting to their own narrow party political agenda.
While we still have more we want to achieve and are working to deliver a more normal and leaner form of government to replace the current temporary but necessary arrangements, our key goal of securing the Union has been accomplished and the threat of a united Ireland recedes further with every passing day of Stormont rule.”