From Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP <[email protected]>
Subject Talks start again next week
Date January 6, 2024 7:59 AM
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Good morning John

Our discussions with the Government recommence next week. Our negotiating team is ready and I thank them for their dedicated work over the Christmas break.

We remain focused on getting a fair and balanced outcome. Our goal throughout this process has been to restore Northern Ireland’s place within the UK Internal Market as set out in our Manifesto.

Northern Ireland should never have been subjected to arrangements that not one unionist MLA supported.

For as long as I have been involved in Northern Ireland talks processes, the lesson at every juncture has been that lasting progress is only achieved when the outcome could be supported by unionists as well as nationalists.

The Northern Ireland that this party is trying to build is one where we all can feel at home whether we identify as British, Irish, Northern Irish or somewhere in-between. The arrangements foisted on unionists by the NI Protocol jeopardised all of this. They were hugely destabilising and set Northern Ireland back rather than moving us forward. The balance must be restored.

Whilst we are making progress with the Government, there remains more work to be done. We have been given a clear mandate and a specific task by the electorate and we are determined to secure the best outcome for everyone. Together, we will succeed.

Finally, I commend Diane Dodds MLA as our education spokesperson in the NI Assembly who has devoted an enormous amount of energy to engaging with principals, parents, governors and teachers about the RSE proposals. The Consultation responses have been collated by the Department for Education and were published yesterday. You can read Diane’s comments below.

Thank you again for your continued support.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP
DUP Leader

DUP Education Spokesperson Diane Dodds has said the Department of Education’s public consultation on changes to Relationship and Sexuality Education regulations demonstrate that issues such as abortion cannot be taught in a moral vacuum.

The Upper Bann MLA said, “Throughout this process we have stressed that parents are best placed to determine what is in the best interest of their child and that the ethos and values of schools must be respected. We will take time to study the full consultation results, but there are some notable results within the consultation responses.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents disagreed with the proposal that issues such as abortion should effectively be taught within a moral vacuum. That is vindication of our stance that a sensitive and emotive issue such as abortion simply cannot be discussed outside of a wider framework of moral and ethical perspectives.

There was an overwhelming majority of 91% who agreed that parents should be informed about the nature and content of RSE curriculum. An even higher percentage agreed that parents should have access to an overview of the school’s RSE policy and curriculum. Again, this strongly reflects the approach we have taken in relation to this issue from the beginning.

Whilst there was a more mixed overall response to the statement in relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, underneath this there were 61% of respondents who were clear that parents rights should take precedent in relation to teaching.

It is clear this consultation generated significant interest and engagement but particularly from parents who are key stakeholders in the process. We will continue to monitor the progress being made by the Department of Education in taking this forward. Their task must now be to ensure that parents wishes are implemented and to see that reflected in the regulations that will be published.”
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