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Nigel Dodds remarks on Irish unity forum were based on a misunderstanding says Arlene Foster

Nigel Dodds speaking at the DUP's manifesto launch at the W5 Science & Discovery Centre in Belfast this week. Picture by Mal McCann

NIGEL Dodds signalling that his party would consider taking part in a Citizens' Assembly in the Republic examining Irish unity was a misunderstanding, according to DUP leader Arlene Foster.

The former first minister's clarification came after The Irish News yesterday reported remarks by Mr Dodds which appeared to suggest the DUP was open to contributing to any forum that was established to consider reunification.

At the party's manifesto launch on Thursday, the DUP leadership was asked: "There's every likelihood there'll be a Citizens' Assembly in the Republic looking at Irish unity. Do you think that's something unionists and specifically the DUP should have input into?"

After answering a previous question relating to Brexit, Mr Dodds responded: "In terms of any Citizens' Assembly and all the rest of it, we will look at any proposals obviously but we believe the way forward for any decision making and political dialogue is through the elected representatives first and foremost with of course proper dialogue, consultation and discussion with everyone who has a stake in society – that's the way forward for us."

When quizzed on her deputy's remarks by the BBC, Mrs Foster said Mr Dodds had misunderstood the question.

"Nigel thought the question was relating to civic arenas in Northern Ireland actually and not the all-Ireland civic forum – he wasn't aware that was a proposition that was in place, so no, we'll not be involving ourselves in any all-Ireland civic forum because we believe in the union," she said.

The DUP went on to say that the party's manifesto focused on "next generation unionism" and building Northern Ireland within the UK.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this week said he will not rule out establishing a Citizens' Assembly to look at Irish unity but questioned whether unionists would take part in such an exercise.

Civic nationalist group Ireland's Future urged the taoiseach to establish the forum in an open letter earlier this month, while Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald made a similar call at her party's recent ard fheis.

TUV leader Jim Allister said "no true unionist" would take part in a forum discussing Irish unity.

He said a Citizens' Assembly looking at the case for Irish unity should be "robustly rejected by all unionists".

"No true unionist will be prepared to engage in talks on Irish unification – it is an oxymoron to even suggest the like," Mr Allister said.

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