North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds has re-iterated the DUP’s continued commitment to using devolution to advance the interests of the Loyal Orders. In a key-note address to party members in his constituency, Mr. Dodds outlined the areas where progress had been made using devolution and detailed future key priorities for the party. During the course of his remarks, the DUP Deputy Leader said:
“During the direct rule regime our Loyal Orders were sidelined and ignored whilst the cultural traditions of our community were subjected to systematic discrimination in terms of funding and support from government. Using devolution, the DUP has worked to end that situation and we can be proud of what we have achieved through working together with our friends in the Loyal Orders.
We have delivered the de-rating of halls throughout Northern Ireland. Our strenuous efforts saw the introduction of new compensation arrangements and we removed plans from central government to place a time limit on the changes to the law. We have reformed the Community Festivals Fund to ensure more access to funding for events such as The Twelfth. The Strategic Review of Parading should ensure the demise of the hated Parades Commission and we have increased by £1million the level of funding going to the Ulster-Scots sector.
Not one of these positive benefits would have been accrued under direct rule. People know that direct rule was bad for our community and bad for the protection and promotion of our culture and heritage. There are a range of issues that we will be striving to achieve further progress on.
Some of the issues that we will be taking forward in 2009 include:
Increasing capacity within the Protestant community
Supporting the efforts of the Orange Institution to expand their range of educational facilities and programmes
Helping isolated border Protestant communities
Increasing official recognition of the Loyal Orders to ensure that they are included in all statutory and governmental consultation exercises – in keeping with their status as a key stake-holder within our community.
The DUP will continue to fight against the erosion of our British identity and will battle to ensure that any attempt to dilute our British way of life is defeated. In pursuing these important goals we look forward to the continued co-operation and support of our friends in the Loyal Orders. Through working together we can build on the good work started and ensure that the Loyal Orders are afforded the recognition and support they deserve.”
After St Andrews the North South Ministerial Council may be politically benign, but is it really the most effective use of our time and resources? This is not a comment on the value of North South co-operation for in all of the economic difficulties that we face one vital boost has been the stimulus to our economy from the Border, the value of euro against sterling and lower UK VAT rates.
Finally, at this time we should also remember and be grateful for our troops that have served and are serving overseas. Their contribution to the safety and security of the world has been immeasurable and we should be proud of them all.”