Robin Swann says Arlene Foster has 'radicalised' nationalism
ULSTER Unionist leader Robin Swann has censured Stormont's two biggest parties but reserved particular criticism for the DUP, whose leader he accused of "radicalising" nationalism.
Speaking at his party's spring conference and annual general meeting, the North Antrim MLA's third as party leader, he noted how his tenure had corresponded with "political paralysis" at Stormont.
Ahead of May's local government elections, Mr Swann was scathing of Sinn Féin and the DUP for the manner in which the parties "hijacked and manipulated" the boundaries of the 11 so-called super councils.
He also characterised their preparations for the May 2 council elections as "warming up as though this election is a border poll".
Mr Swann claimed there was a danger that the "dysfunctionality, chaos and ineptitude that ultimately became Stormont's downfall will spread to local government".
The UUP leader said at the party's conference in October he warned there was a "battle to save the union from the DUP".
"With the DUP at the helm, pro-union politics lies in the gutter," he said.
"As the lead party of unionism I have yet to see them offer anything close to strong, confident unionism – instead time and again they seem more focused on destroying other unionist parties rather than protecting Northern Ireland's place within the union."
He said Arlene Foster's party had overseen the shelving of Stormont and the Renewable Heat Incentive which had "nearly bankrupted the country and now stands to bankrupt legitimate users".
Mr Swann claimed the DUP leader had "radicalised nationalist opinion in a way the republican movement could only dream of".
"Unionism should be the comfortable home of choice for people irrespective of their class, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation," he said.
"You can be strong in your unionism without being belligerent and disrespectful."