North Antrim DUP Assembly Member Mervyn Storey has congratulated Northern Ireland’s A-level students on outperforming their counterparts on the mainland yet again. Figures released by the CCEA showed that 35.4% of Northern Ireland pupils gained an A grade compared to the 25.9% overall figure for the mainland. Mervyn Storey said:
“To those pupils who achieved the grades they wanted I wish to offer my hearty congratulations and to those who didn’t get the results they expected I would urge them not to panic. School careers advisors and further education institutions are well-equipped to help at this time.
Once again we see that Northern Ireland is leading the way when it comes to educational attainment. The Province has many fine secondary and grammar schools and this is reflected in this years excellent A-level results. What these results also show is the importance of protecting those parts of the education sector which are delivering top results whilst at the same time focusing our attention to those parts which are not doing so well. Northern Ireland needs a truly holistic education system which caters for all of our children and ensures they get the best possible education.
Blanket solutions such as banning academic selection will not work. The DUP is working to achieve an education system which is tailored to suit the needs of every child and which will continue to deliver first-class results such as these well into the future.”
Mervyn Storey is the Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee
DUP Member of Parliament for Lagan Valley, Jeffrey Donaldson has said that Arlene Foster is doing an excellent job in bringing the Unionist community in Enniskillen together to defend the council seat held by the late Joe Dodds from falling to a Republican. The senior DUP MP was speaking after a days canvass in the area. Speaking today Jeffrey Donaldson said:
“People in Enniskillen, regardless of their party-political affiliation in the past, are rallying to Arlene, because they know and understand that only she can stop Sinn Fein from capturing the seat that was held by Joe Dodds. Many people who voted for the Ulster Unionists and other parties in the last election have told me that they will be supporting Arlene in this crucial election campaign because they do not want to see a Unionist seat falling to Sinn Fein and because she is the best-placed person to stop that from happening.
I believe Arlene Foster has struck exactly the right note in the Enniskillen by-election campaign. Her theme of bringing all of the Unionist community in Enniskillen together to prevent a Republican from stealing a Unionist seat is chiming with the voters in the area. People understand that Arlene Foster is best placed to prevent Sinn Fein from capturing the seat held for many years by our friend Joe Dodds, whose passing caused so much sorrow in the local community. Many people are suspending their traditional party allegiances in order to rally to the Unionist best placed to win.
Joe Dodds was a highly respected local figure who worked hard for the community. It would be a tragedy if his seat was allowed to fall to a Republican candidate. People of course are deeply angry that Bertie Kerr should have forced this by-election when there is a very real risk of a Republican winning a seat that they otherwise wouldn’t hold in a full council election. Mr. Kerr of course had no problem agreeing to the co-option of a Sinn Fein member in the past – it seems he only objects when it is a Unionist seat that is being filled. The feedback I am getting indicates that the wider Unionist community in Enniskillen are going to reject his careless wrecking tactics by rallying to Arlene Foster.”
Nelson McCausland has responded to the comments of Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams who said that the government, in co-operation with the Irish administration should intervene in the political process concerning issues around the devolution of policing and justice powers and an Irish Language Act. Mr. McCausland said the comments called into question Gerry Adams commitment to resolving outstanding issues. Nelson McCausland said:
“This latest outburst from the Sinn Fein President calls into question his commitment to resolving outstanding issues. It is pathetic that Gerry Adams continues to repeat an accusation that is demonstrably untrue. The DUP made no commitment whatsoever concerning the devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont at the St. Andrews negotiations. Our position on this matter is crystal clear. We will not assent to the devolution of these sensitive powers until such time as there is sufficient public confidence to allow that to occur.
Furthermore, we will not assent to Sinn Fein holding this position. As for any private assurances given to Mr. Adams by the government or the Irish administration, that is for him to resolve with those parties, not with us. The Sinn Fein President really needs to ask himself if behaving in this petulant manner makes finding a resolution to these outstanding issues more or less likely. Does constantly issuing threats in the media because he isn’t getting his own way make it more likely that current problems will be overcome? If this is leadership Sinn Fein-style it leaves a lot to be desired.
The DUP has said that we are willing to work with others to resolve important outstanding issues, but Mr. Adams will have to accept that resolving issues does not equate to giving him what he wants. Sinn Fein might well have become used to Unionists rolling over and giving them what they wanted during the Trimble era but those days are over.
The DUP is working hard for all of the community in Northern Ireland – we will not be deflected from that by this latest tantrum of the Sinn Fein President.”
DUP Assembly Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Arlene Foster has reminded the public of the record of the Ulster Unionist Party over the issue of the devolution of Policing and Justice Powers to Stormont. Mrs. Foster said it was regrettable that over recent days, leading UUP members have been attempting to deceive the public over the matter in order to attack fellow-Unionists. Arlene Foster said:
“At a time when the Leader of the DUP has been calling for closer co-operation and Unity amongst Unionists, it is very sad to see the Ulster Unionist Party attacking the DUP and attempting to deceive people. Do they not realise that Unionists want to see closer co-operation, not bitter back-biting? Unionists do not forget that the Ulster Unionist Party had agreed to devolve the Policing and Justice brief to Stormont by 2005, without so much as a commitment from Republicans to support the forces of law and order and the courts. Furthermore, during the deliberations of the Preparation for Government Committee in 2006, the Ulster Unionists, along with the SDLP and Sinn Fein wanted the ministerial brief included in the D’Hondt process – which would have meant a strong role for Sinn Fein in the running of the department. The DUP has stopped that from happening. One would have thought the UUP would welcome positive improvements on the mess created by David Trimble, but it seems not. I think that is regrettable.
Also during the discussions of the Preparation for Government Committee, the UUP representative accused the DUP of playing politics because we refused to commit to a date for the devolution of Policing and Justice Powers. The DUP position on the devolution of Policing and Justice Powers has not changed one iota: we know that ordinary Unionists demand more community confidence before these powers are devolved and they want Sinn Fein excluded from holding this ministry. Due to the hard work of the DUP there will not be a Sinn Fein Policing and Justice Minister. Our record is clear and consistent, which is more than can be said for those who are attempting to deceive people about their party position in order to justify their childish attacks on fellow-Unionists. I have no doubt that a majority of the Unionist community will be appalled by those who are engaging in such foolish behaviour.”
Peter Robinson, Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party said:
“Gerry Adams seems to be labouring under the illusion that if he repeats a falsehood often enough then people will believe that it is true.
His repeated suggestion that the DUP signed up to a date, or even a target date for the devolution of policing and justice functions to the Northern Ireland Assembly at St Andrews is demonstrably false. This is not merely a matter of interpretation, but a question of fact. This makes his constant comments on the subject all the more bizarre and difficult to understand.
Every time Mr Adams distorts the facts we are happy to point out theincontrovertible truth but it really would be better if he did not feel the need to in the first place.
Once again let me remind him that the DUP made the position clear on the final day at the end of the negotiations at St Andrews when we said,
“There is no definitive date for the devolution of policing and justice powers. We remain of the unshakable view that those powers can only be transferred whenever there is the required community confidence.”
This has been the clear and consistent position of the party and remains the position today.
While progress has been made there are still considerable hurdles which lie ahead and will need to be resolved before a date for the devolution of the powers can be considered.
Indeed, at the end of June at the World Bar Conference in Belfast I set out my position on the matter and made clear that the DUP submission to the preparation for government committee before devolution remained the basis for any negotiations in this area.
Some parties have expressed concern about their lack of involvement inthe process so far, but let me reassure them that key issues have still to be resolved and the purpose of asking the Assembly and Executive review committee to be involved was to ensure other parties were involved in shaping the final structures.
In a matter as important as the devolution of policing and justice it is critical that any arrangements have the widest and broadest support possible. I believe that the involvement of the AERC in the autumn will help ensure this is the case. Too often in the past short term cobbled together political deals have been done which have not been in the best interests of Northern Ireland. This issue is too important for such an approach now.”
North Belfast DUP Assembly Member Nelson McCausland has said that the nationalist community no longer believes in the inevitability of a United Ireland. Mr. McCausland based his assertion on the findings of a straw poll conducted at last night’s “West Belfast Talks Back” event held in St. Louise’s Comprehensive School on the Falls Road (the event is part of the West Belfast Festival). When asked by the compere, William Crawley did they believe a United Ireland would be delivered within 15 years, a clear majority of those polled did not believe it would happen. Nelson McCausland said,
“If a question surrounding the inevitability of a United Ireland had been asked at the West Belfast Festival in 1998 or during the Trimble era, I have no doubt whatsoever that the vast majority of those being polled would have voted yes. The fact that in a Republican heartland like the Falls Road a clear majority of those polled said they did not believe in the inevitability of a United Ireland should provide encouragement to the Unionist community.
What is clear is that the 2016 pipe-dream being pushed by some has now been abandoned. The fact that nationalists no longer believe that it will be realised is a testament to the hard work of the Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP seeks a stable, secure Northern Ireland delivering for all of our community inside the United Kingdom and that is what we are achieving. Stable devolution provides us with an opportunity to persuade people who in the past have been nationalist in their outlook to the advantages of the Union.
What is clear to me from last nights straw poll is that a majority of the non-Unionist community no longer believe that the Union is doomed – that situation has been brought about by the Democratic Unionist Party.”
Responding to the decision of the government to call for a report from the Independent Monitoring Commission Jeffrey Donaldson said:
“The Democratic Unionist Party has been working hard for a considerable time to see the removal of all paramilitary organisations from the scene in Northern Ireland. We acknowledge that significant progress has been made in relation to paramilitary activity and the disposal of illegal arms, but there are still outstanding issues that need to be resolved to our satisfaction. The DUP will not be content until every last vestige of IRA structures has disappeared.
The Unionist electorate want to see the complete and total disappearance of all paramilitary groups, both Loyalist and Republican. These groups have no place in Northern Ireland – they are a noose around the neck of the working-class communities in which they operate and their departure will be welcomed by all right-thinking people.”
DUP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Arlene Foster has reiterated that the position of the Democratic Unionist Party remains entirely unchanged on the issue of the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly. In comparing the DUP’s long-held positions on the matter with the present circumstances, Mrs. Foster demonstrated that the DUP had not moved its position one iota. Speaking today, launching the second leg of the DUP’s Rural Road-show at the Enniskillen Show, Mrs Foster said:
“The Democratic Unionist Party position on the devolution of Policing and Justice Powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly remains utterly unchanged despite some of the spinning going on by other parties. In 2006 at the Preparation for Government Committee, the position of the Democratic Unionist Party was that we wanted a single ministry. That remains our position and that is what has been agreed. Similarly, we stated that we wanted to see a single minister holding the Policing and Justice brief. That remains our position today and that is what has been agreed.
The central and crucial point in this debate is that the DUP will not agree to the devolution of Policing and Justice Powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly until such times as there is sufficient community confidence to allow it to occur. The content of Sinn Fein understandings with the government reached at St. Andrews is something for Sinn Fein to deal with. It has nothing whatsoever to do with us and we are under no obligations on this issue.
Since 2006, the DUP outlined our view that this sensitive brief should be de-coupled from the D’Hondt process and that whoever is appointed must be capable of attracting cross-community support. That remains our position and what has been agreed effectively amounts to a DUP veto on whoever the Policing and Justice Minister will be. Just as we have used a veto in the past where necessary, we will do so again.”
North Belfast DUP MLA Nelson McCausland has called into question the political future of Labour-leaning members of the Ulster Unionist Party. The North Belfast MLA was speaking out after recent comments from UUP members and the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, indicating that they were in favour of full-blown merger between the Ulster Unionist Party and the Conservative Party. Commenting Mr. McCausland said,
“In recent days we have seen leading members of the Ulster Unionist Party and the leader of the Conservatives, David Cameron indicating that they wanted to see full-blown merger between the Ulster Unionists and the Tories. That can’t have been comfortable for people inside the UUP with Labour sympathies like Fred Cobain, Michael McGimpsey or Ken Robinson to witness.
The great strength of Unionism is that it is possible to be a left-wing Unionist a right-wing Unionist or a centrist Unionist. Unionism is bigger than left-right politics and is able to encompass all people with all political positions on socio-economic matters. By aligning themselves in a clear and unambiguous way with a centre-right political party, the leadership of the UUP is effectively telling its members with centrist or left-wing political leanings that they are no longer welcome.
In the past Ken Robinson has been very forthright in expressing his opinion of the Tory Party. Mr. Robinson said:
“The Tory Party is going nowhere fast and is rapidly becoming an irrelevance in British politics. I believe the Tory Party has done little or nothing for Northern Ireland apart from selling us out at Sunningdale and foisting the Anglo-Irish Agreement upon us”
If that is still his opinion, what future will he have inside the Ulster Unionists once they become the Northern Ireland branch of the Conservative Party as so many UUP members seem to want? It is clear that in attempting to hitch his wagon to one political party in Westminster, the Leader of the UUP is going to splinter his party and force many people with Labour-sympathies to leave. Reg Empey needs to ask himself is trying to get David Trimble a cabinet job really worth sacrificing his party over?”