Published Saturday, 12 October 2013
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson. (© Presseye)
Party leader Billy Hutchinson hailed the conference in Lurgan as a re-affirmation of the party's "tradition of promoting and encouraging equality, diversity and respect in the context of the union".
He said: "I was delighted with the breadth and depth of the issues discussed today, all of which demonstrate the Progressive Unionist Party's commitment to a socially progressive politics based on equality of opportunity for everyone, regardless of their background.
"It also reinforces our belief that this equality is best delivered within the context of a strong United Kingdom."
Party members supported a motion in favour of gay marriage during the event at Brownlow House.
"I welcome that the party now recognises as its policy the right of gay people to marry," Mr Hutchinson commented.
"I think this ensures that our policy is now in line with the rest of the United Kingdom where everyone has the right to have their relationship recognised through marriage.
"However, it is also important to point out that the motion adopted today does not discriminate against those who hold opposing views on this issue."
Unionism remains divided and one of the key tactics of Irish republicanism has been to isolate loyalism from mainstream unionism.
Billy Hutchinson, PUP
Mr Hutchinson said the PUP has established an agenda to address the problem of poor education among Protestant children living in deprived areas.
He also said the party reinforced its commitment to support the Armed forces.
A commitment to unionist unity was also stressed by the PUP leader.
"This is the best way to maintain the Union while also addressing in partnership the complex issues that affect our most disadvantaged communities," he added.
A nationalist speaker addressed the conference for the first time as Irish News editor Noel Doran told the 150 delegates that loyalists had taken the wrong approach to the flags row.
He said another way to vent frustration other than protesting needed to be found.
Mr Hutchinson said the conference had "reinforced the revival within the Progressive Unionist Party that has taken place over the past twelve months, with membership tripling".
He concluded: "We have reinforced our position as the major socially progressive Party in Northern Ireland and the only Party that is serious about tackling issues ranging from educational under-attainment through to housing inequality."
© UTV News