DUP Free to Speak and Vote at all Times – Dodds

DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds MP MLA today said:

“The DUP is first and foremost a Party which seeks to defend and promote the Union. We believe that the interests of the Union are best served by being free to speak and vote at all times in accordance with that overriding objective.

The DUP has maintained good relations with the Conservative Party and often votes with them on issues in the House of Commons. At the same time it is essential to have the freedom to make judgements and take decisions on an issue by issue basis, at all times putting the interests of the Union and unionism first, not the preferences of another political party.

Both main Parties at Westminster have at times adopted policies or promoted measures which have been detrimental to the Union or against the interests of unionists in Northern Ireland. Currently both Parties have policies which many unionists in Northern Ireland would neither support nor endorse.

Being staunchly unionist whilst at the same time being free from having the fetter of an imposed whip, whether it is Tory or Labour means we are best placed to speak, negotiate and represent the people who have elected us.

The DUP has been in regular discussions with the Tory party leadership. We also talk regularly to the government. With the prospect of a hung Parliament stronger than ever, and as recent events show, having a strong bloc of DUP Parliamentarians acting cohesively will be very significant. Any Party in that situation will be in a very strong position to negotiate on behalf of Northern Ireland and the unionist cause.”

Foster Leads Fight to Keep Enniskillen Unionist

DUP MLA Arlene Foster has been chosen as the DUP Candidate for the forthcoming by-election in Enniskillen. The MLA, who was unanimously endorsed by DUP members at a meeting in Lisbellaw this evening, has vowed to fight to keep the seat held by the late Joe Dodds in Unionist hands. The selection meeting was addressed by DUP Leader Peter Robinson.

Speaking today the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly Member said:
“The passing of our dear friend Joe Dodds was a very sad time for people in Enniskillen. Joe was a dedicated public servant held in very high regard by all people throughout the district – Unionist, Nationalist and others. I was proud to serve with Joe until I had to stand down on becoming Local Government Minister – now as Economy Minister, I am fighting to hold his seat for the Unionist cause. This by-election will be a fight to keep the seat held by Joe in Unionist hands. It will be a hard fight and everyone knows that it will be a battle between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein as to who will take this seat.
People in the constituency are rightly angered at the behaviour of Bertie Kerr in forcing this by-election in the first place. I know many Ulster Unionists who are deeply hurt by what Mr. Kerr has done in risking a seat falling to Republicans that they otherwise would not be entitled to in a full election. His subsequent public utterances have compounded the anger and hurt out there in the community. I hope the UUP leadership will show in coming days that Bertie Kerr was acting on his own behalf and not at their behest.
The figures speak for themselves. In the last election the combined Unionist vote was 49%, whilst the combined Nationalist total was 47%, with an independent candidate accounting for the remainder. The DUP was the lead party in this area at the last election and only the DUP can stop Joe Dodds’ seat from falling to a Republican. My campaign will be about Unionist Unity – we must all come together to hold this seat. Over the coming weeks I am looking forward to getting out around the doors and encouraging Unionist people, regardless of their party-political allegiances to rally in the cause of keeping this seat in Unionist hands.”

Dodds Urges European Leaders to Respect Outcome of Lisbon Vote in Irish Republic

Nigel Dodds MP, MLA said:

“Whilst the free nations of the world quite rightly condemn the outrageous manipulation of democracy displayed by Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, French President Sarkozy and his allies in the other European states are in danger of showing a similar disregard for the democratic process by refusing to recognise the quite legitimate rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the electorate of the Irish Republic. Henry Ford once famously said of his cars, “you can have any colour you like as long as it’s black”, and, by asserting that the Irish Republic might need to hold a second vote, President Sarkozy is essentially telling the Irish people that they can vote in whatever way they want as long as it’s for the Lisbon treaty! In the face of such bullying tactics and warped logic, it’s little wonder his short visit to the Irish Republic has descended into a French farce.
The Lisbon Treaty represents an extremely serious threat to the sovereignty and liberties of the nations of Europe. However, as a result of the Irish vote, it is fatally holed below the water line and must therefore be allowed to sink. In the House of Commons last Thursday, I urged the British Government not to join with other European Governments in their seeming determination to bully the people of the Irish Republic, but instead to abandon this unwanted and undemocratic Treaty. However, given the Government’s refusal to allow a referendum on the issue in the United Kingdom, its desire to be at the heart of Europe, and the Prime Minister’s seeming inability to display decisive and courageous leadership, I am not holding my breath.”

Peter Robinson Speaks at Launch of Belfast Orangefest

DUP Leader and First Minister Peter Robinson MP this evening made the following speech at the launch of Belfast Orangefest at the Park Avenue Hotel. Mr Robinson said,
“Thank you for inviting me this evening. It is a great pleasure to share in this evening’s proceedings as we celebrate another year of the Orangefest Initiative. I am particularly impressed with the line up of events and am sure that we will continue to enjoy them all very much.

I place a high value on the role of the Orange Institution within Ulster society: this is reflective of the fact that the Orange Institution is a key stake-holder within our community. Orange Halls provide a network of community centres around our Province: halls that are used on a day and daily basis not only by the loyal orders, but also by other organisations such as mother and toddler groups, Women’s Institutes and Young Farmers – not that there’s too many of them in East Belfast!

I also wanted to congratulate all those who have been involved with Orangefest and the County Grand Lodge of Belfast for the work they have done to promote Orange culture in such a positive way and in a way which can help secure and enhance it in the years ahead. I believe that this approach not only allows our tradition to be celebrated, but does so in a way that opens it up to those from outside our own background and tradition.
The Orange Institution stages some of the largest cultural celebrations in Europe. Tomorrow, we will celebrate the Glorious Revolution and with it the concept of civil and religious liberty for all which was cemented into our constitution and laws by the victory of William at the Boyne. Initiatives such as Orangefest which seek to broaden the appeal and develop the understanding of our cultural celebrations are extremely constructive. I want to see government respond to the positive actions of the Order and I know the new DCAL Minister, Gregory Campbell, is very keen to meet and discuss with you how his department can help in the future.

Gregory is of the view that it is not about whether there is some existing scheme from which Orange projects can benefit but, given what the Institution is trying to do by way of education, outreach and cultural advancement, whether there can be any new initiatives the Department can take which will develop the potential that has been identified. Moreover, I have often heard Orange spokespersons outline the potential that the 12th has in terms of tourism. I strongly agree. There is no good reason why Northern Ireland should not become a magnet for those around the globe who are interested in cultural tourism? It is a challenge with a huge potential, and I am delighted that the Institution is rising to meet it. There is much to do to make this a reality but I am certain that the work that is being done here can make it happen. Again Arlene Foster, our DETI Minister, is willing to play a full part in making progress in this area and working with you.

I will be happy to facilitate a dialogue on all these matters with the relevant Ministers to ensure that the Orange Institution is not limited in the progress it can make by a lack of vision in officialdom.

There are still other vital issues to be resolved, not least of which will be a resolution to the curtailment of the right to parade. I do not believe the Parades Commission is a part of the solution to this problem. It must go. We will continue to work for a way forward and we acknowledge the work already being carried out in reviewing this issue. But progress has been made on some other issues. Today, Orange Halls are exempt from Rates saving hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds. Progress has been made in ensuring halls damaged will have access to Government compensation. We will need to press during the consultation period for the removal of the sunset clause which would limit the length of this provision being in place. Many of these achievements have been realised by the best possible co-operation between the Orange Order and the political parties. I believe this relationship should continue to grow in the future.
One of the Orange Order’s great strengths down through the years has been the fact that it acts as a unifying force within the Protestant and Unionist community. Orangeism, in all its manifestations, belongs to us all, regardless of denomination or political allegiances. It is a place where people with different party political backgrounds and indeed those with no party political affiliations can come together. This is a positive and important role that the Order plays within the broad unionist community. Times have changed significantly since this great Institution was formed. Yet it is still relevant and vibrant. Human behaviour has changed. People’s outlooks change. Northern Ireland is changing. But the strength of any organisation will be found in its ability to adapt to changing circumstances while still remaining true to its core beliefs and traditions. By any standards the Orange Order’s long and historic existence is a testament to this. Now, it is clear the Order is framing its role for the next hundred years and if the progress of recent years is anything to go by then I am certain it can look forward to a most successful future.”