From Sir Jeffrey Donaldson <[email protected]>
Subject The election has renewed our strength
Date May 27, 2023 6:59 AM
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Last Thursday our mandate was renewed, and we were able to reaffirm our contract with the people to fully restore Northern Ireland’s position in the United Kingdom.

Whilst the non-unionist commentators seek to pick holes in our mandate, I am heartened that we were able to increase our vote share from the NI Assembly election last year.

I am also heartened that many of our young first-time candidates are elected with passion and energy to deliver our manifesto commitment of the best services at the lowest rates. To that end, our council teams will meet next week to firm up their programme of work for the term to ensure each council is focused on what matters so ratepayers can get best value.

None of this would have been possible without you, the people, voting and keeping faith in our leadership and strategy to get Northern Ireland back on track. Thank you.

When I travelled around constituencies, I was humbled to see so many supporters knocking doors and pounding the streets. There are a lot of tired legs and sore feet, but our cause is worth it. We are in a battle to build a Northern Ireland that we can hand on to our children and grandchildren.

Whilst the combined Sinn Fein and SDLP vote is at roughly the same level as it was 25 years ago, the election demonstrates in black and white that Northern Ireland is a divided place. As a passionate believer in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, we will only move forward in Northern Ireland by making it successful and prosperous for those who call it home.

The Northern Ireland Protocol placed a barrier between us and the rest of the United Kingdom which is offensive to us as unionists. Indeed, whilst nationalists seek to play down the impact of the Irish Sea Border, we should all remember that Sinn Fein and SDLP politicians were in uproar at the very idea of any additional cameras being placed on the north-south border.

Northern Ireland will struggle to move forward if Republicans have so little respect for their unionist neighbours that they can’t see the problem with the current Protocol arrangements. I would never have expected nor asked my nationalist neighbours to accept the kind of infrastructure north-south that we are being asked to accept east-west.

Alongside colleagues, I have consistently campaigned to ensure that the Protocol is replaced by arrangements that restore our place within the United Kingdom. Those arrangements must be capable of commanding the support of unionists as well as nationalists.

We operate ‘powersharing’ in Northern Ireland because of our divided society, and it is a recognition that to move forward we must do so with Unionist and Nationalist buy-in. This is the uncomfortable truth that many political representatives don’t want to hear.

Our judgement and our principled position in opposing the Protocol in Parliament and at Stormont has been vindicated. When others said there would be no re-negotiation and no change our determination has proved what can be achieved.

The outcome of the recent UK-EU negotiations, the Windsor Framework, while undoubtedly representing significant progress across a number of areas, does not deal with some of the fundamental problems at the heart of our current difficulties.

Whilst welcoming progress, we have carefully assessed the Windsor Framework and concluded that the Framework does not meet our seven tests as set out in our 2022 Assembly election manifesto.

Consequently, more work is required by the UK Government if we are to secure the necessary conditions for a return to the Northern Ireland Executive.

We need to get this right in order to build a Northern Ireland that works for all.

The people who voted last Thursday have renewed our mandate to finish the job and lay the necessary solid foundations for a return of local accountable government at Stormont.

We want to see the restoration of the Assembly and Executive on a stable and sustainable basis and primarily, that means addressing and resolving the problems created by the protocol and the economic and democratic deficit that it has created for Northern Ireland and its people.

Whilst some devote their energies to misrepresenting the position of the DUP, we will do everything possible to prevent a situation where Northern Ireland is separated from its most important market in Great Britain.

As an MP of 25 years, I also know the impact the current budget is having on our public services. I have met with many of the people delivering vital services who are in receipt of redundancy notices but those spreading the notion that the restoration of Stormont will simply replenish every budget are doing an injustice to those public servants. The funding shortfall must be addressed for the long-term sustainability of both our public finances and public services, and this can only be done by the Treasury at Westminster.

As Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party we have the ultimate responsibility of ensuring we get the right outcome for Northern Ireland. I am committed to working across Unionism in a spirit of cooperation to deal with the challenges and to get Northern Ireland back on the right track, firmly within the United Kingdom.

Best wishes,

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP
DUP Leader
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