DUP leader appeals for Catholic support

Peter Robinson was speaking at the annual DUP conference.

Peter Robinson has reached out to the Catholic community during a party conference as he has said the majority of both Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland support the union with Great Britain.

Saturday, 24 November 2012
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The party leader told the gathering at the La Mon Hotel in Belfast on Saturday that the majority of Catholics and Protestants want to stay in the United Kingdom.

Mr Robinson said it was up to his party to create a "new and better" chapter in Northern Irish history.

He said: "The DUP has triumphed because it is united and strong, because it looks to the future and not just to the past and because it does not just say things to court a popular tide but rather it says it what it believes and believes what it says."

The leader of the biggest party in Northern Ireland told delegates the constitutional debate had been won.

Today we have the confidence of knowing that a majority of Protestants and Catholics alike support our constitutional position with the United Kingdom. They know they are better off with Britain.

DUP leader Peter Robinson

Speaking about the future of the party, Mr Robinson indicated he wanted to achieve more backing from the Catholic community.

"Our direction of travel must be clear. The critics who doubt we can achieve this goal are the same ones who scoffed at the thought of the DUP becoming Northern Ireland's largest party," he said.

"The reality today is that the 'left' and 'far left' policies of both of the nationalist parties leave many Catholics effectively disenfranchised.

"As the leader of a party that seeks to represent the whole community I'm not prepare to write off over 40% of our population as being out of reach."

He said achieving cross-community support would require "as much as an adjustment from us as it will require a leap of faith from those whose votes we seek".

Mr Robinson also said Sinn Féin's call for a border poll was a "bizarre development".

"I know opinion polls are not a perfect gauge of public opinion, but when the last one showed that fewer than 10% want a united Ireland now, republicans really should take the hint," he said.

He also commented on the Ulster Unionists' call for an opposition in Stormont, saying he had no fears about the prospect.

"Why should I? The DUP has by far the best and most able Ministers and there are no better ideas coming from any other party or member in the Assembly.

"In truth, I would prefer the UUP to work alongside us in harmony and in partnership but I am prepared to facilitate them or indeed any other party if they feel they cannot make a positive contribution in the Executive and wish to opt for an opposition role."