DUP Leader’s New Year Message

DUP Leader Rt Hon Peter Robinson MP MLA delivered the following New Year’s message to the people of Northern Ireland. Mr Robinson said,
“In the face of the world-wide economic downturn I am confident that in 2009 the Executive can demonstrate why devolution is good for the people of Northern Ireland. There are undoubtedly difficult months ahead and serious challenges to be faced but devolution can allow us to tailor our response to meet the problems that we will encounter.
People understand that it was not the Executive which caused the global economic difficulties but they expect us to respond to them. We have made a good start with the package already announced, but the next year will bring even greater challenges for us to face.
After a period of settling in for the Executive, it is vital that devolution is seen to deliver. In this we are building on firm foundations over the last twenty months. Delivering on what we have already promised and adapting to meet emerging challenges will be the best way we can serve the people of Northern Ireland.
We should never underestimate how far we have come in just a few short years, but nor can we live on past accomplishments. The peace and devolution settlement within the United Kingdom which has been achieved may have once seemed impossible, but it must be the platform that we use to improve the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland and not an end in itself.
In the next few months the Executive must do all that it can to keep people in work and keep the economy moving. Keeping people in work must be a central focus in this coming year.
Rather than meekly accept and weather the recession, we must use the global downturn to Northern Ireland’s advantage by playing to our advantages internationally for those who wish to invest and by preparing for the recovery. After decades of conflict we have enormous potential for growth in the years ahead.
We must use the fact that we are a small regional administration within the UK to our advantage and be able to react in an agile and tailored way to meet our needs. Our membership of the United Kingdom will help us weather the economic problems but we must seek to move our economy away from a dependence on the Exchequer.
We should not underestimate just how far Sinn Fein has travelled in a few years with their acceptance of the police and the courts and their willingness to operate devolution within the United Kingdom, but we must never again allow narrow party political agendas to divert the focus of the Executive away from delivering for the people of Northern Ireland.
As First Minister I am keen to see all four parties in the Executive working together for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland. I want to see us moving forward on the basis of consensus but this can only be done by all Ministers respecting the authority of the Executive and, especially at this time, not seeking to peddle political dogma.
I hope that in 2009 we can also see further progress in the area of the devolution of policing and justice but we also have a responsibility to ensure that the powers that we already have are exercised as efficiently and effectively as possible. This year I believe we should take a fresh look at whether we can improve the value for money of our present institutions.
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.”

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