Peter Robinson: "Old-style unionist majority is a thing of the past"
Published: 27 Apr 2013 16:000 comments
Speaking to party delegates, Mr Robinson said last year's Census results revealed that the Union is more secure than ever "not just because of the outcome of a sectarian headcount, but more importantly, because of the support of a majority of Catholics as well as a majority of Protestants."
He said Sinn Fein's "so-called outreach campaign to the unionist community stands in stark contrast to what they actually do on the ground."
"We must be careful not to make the same mistake in our efforts to reach out to the Catholic community."
Mr Robinson said a recent BBC poll on the Union "came as a great shock to Sinn Fein."
"To this day they remain in denial that more Catholics would vote to stay within the UK rather than join a united Ireland. And that is because they just don't understand the complex changes to society in Northern Ireland."
"The old Orange-Green, British-Irish dichotomy no longer adequately sums up the myriad of shades of identity here. Old-style unionist majority is a thing of the past."
Mr Robinson said unionists also "need to come to terms with the changing environment."
"There are those in the Catholic community who are and always have been committed unionists," he said.
The First Minister said the Northern Ireland people "need the DUP in government", in response to comments by Martin McGuinness who said unionists were in government with Sinn Fein "because they have to be."
On the controversy over the redevelopment of the Maze, Mr Robinson said: "The notion that the DUP would have anything to do with building a shrine to terrorism is frankly as preposterous and absurd as it is offensive."
"Let's be clear about the facts," said Mr Robinson, "The UUP released the terrorists from the Maze. UUP representatives then chose and proposed the Maze as the location for the Peace Centre, and the then UUP leader endorsed that choice. The UUP-led Maze panel asked that former Maze Prison structures including the prison hospital be listed and retained. This too was endorsed by the then UUP leader."
"Having irreversibly locked these elements into the Maze plan their new leader opposes both the location of the Peace Centre at the Maze that his party proposed and he wants to see the buildings his party had listed to be now delisted."
"Unbelievably, when challenged about this humiliating somersault he says it's different now because the present plan doesn't include a football stadium," he said.
On the future of Stormont, Mr Robinson said: "For too long Northern Ireland was served up a version of whatever policies were enacted at Westminster. We will not settle for cut and paste policies. I want us to transform our economy and in a decade's time for Northern Ireland to become known as the UK's economic miracle."
On the union flag dispute, he said: "The decision to take down the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall was a disaster for Northern Ireland as a whole."
"By any standards it was an aggressive and unnecessary step. Because if republicans are intent on a cultural war you can be certain of one thing - it will be a battle that will have no winners."
"If we want to fight the battles of the last 40 years for the next 40 years then the peace that has been won will never deliver the prosperity the Province needs. "
"There are enough problems in our society to be sorted out without trying to fix things that weren't broken in the first place... if a collective failure caused the problems then only a collective approach will solve them," he said.
Full coverage of the DUP spring conference in Fermanagh in next week's Impartial Reporter.
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