Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster insists Tory link has benefited Northern Ireland

DUP leader Arlene Foster has insisted her party's deal with the Tories is good for Northern Ireland. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association

DUP LEADER Arlene Foster has insisted her party's link with the Tories has benefited everyone in Northern Ireland after former leader Peter Robinson criticised the collapse of negotiations at Stormont.

In what has been viewed as an attack on Mrs Foster's leadership, Mr Robinson told an audience at Queen's University in Belfast on Thursday night that the recent set of failed negotiations to resurrect Stormont had ended in a "train crash".

Addressing an audience that included Mrs Foster, he urged politicians to show leadership.

"Let's be clear, not all of your colleagues, will want to make the necessary concessions," he said.

"That's where leadership comes in."

He added: "It will be a career defining moment. Make no mistake about it, your leadership will be on the line. If they reject your recommendation they are rejecting your leadership. So, fight tooth and nail for it."

Former first minister Peter Robinson delivers his first public lecture at Queen's University Belfast. Picture by Queen's University Belfast, Press Association

In an apparent rebuke to Mr Robinson's remarks, Mrs Foster said the last general election gave the DUP "a mandate which enabled us to negotiate an additional £1.5billion for everyone in Northern Ireland". 

She added: "The election result was an historic vote in so many ways". 

"The weeks which followed catapulted the DUP into the global spotlight," she said.

She added: "Whilst some headlines were less than complementary, I only found praise for our manifesto. Many said if the Conservative Party had stood on such a manifesto, they may have had a better result."

She said the 'confidence and supply agreement' which saw the Tories agree to give the north money in return for DUP support at Westminster was a "good deal for everyone in Northern Ireland".

Mrs Foster listed what she felt her party had achieved since the deal, including ensuring no change to the triple lock for pensions and the universal winter fuel allowance across the north and Britain.

She said the money had secured funding for key projects including the York Road Interchange; the reduction of hospital waiting lists and the roll out of ultra fast broadband.

Mrs Foster claimed "delivery has been gradual but steady progress has been made".  

"£410m has recently been delivered helping deprived communities, schools and hospitals," she said.

"The commitments were not dependent upon devolution but we have found ourselves in crazy and ridiculous position of having money in the bank and no one there to withdraw it for major projects which require ministerial sign-off," she said.

"One year on from that historic election, I renew my call for devolution to be restored without preconditions.  Let’s enter the Executive with nothing but our mandates and let’s work together to get the best outcomes for Northern Ireland.

"Whether on roads, mental health, broadband or shared education, it is deeply frustrating that such decisions have been held up."

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