Sir Jeffrey – the Union is in the hands of our children

DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP has been speaking in Newry & Armagh this evening to Party members and supporters and reminded those in attendance that the choices unionists make today will either grow support for Northern Ireland or will cede ground to the enemies of the Union.

Sir Jeffrey said,

“Northern Ireland’s future does not rest in the hands of a court or Parliament, it rests in the hands of our children and grandchildren. They will determine the Union’s longevity.

As leaders of unionism, we must realise that a demographic and political shift is taking place before our eyes. Either we close our eyes and ignore it or we recognise that we are no longer in a place where 70% of the population are red, white and blue British.

As someone who is a long-time member of His Majesty’s Privy Council, has been a Member of the British Parliament for some 27 years and a proud Royalist, I also grew up in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, have been for almost 50 years a member of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and I hail from a family who served with the Royal Irish Regiment. As such the symbols that I identify with include the harp and crown that I wore with pride as my cap badge in the Ulster Defence Regiment. I value my Britishness as represented by the crown but I also value the Irish element of my identity as represented by the harp. To be Northern Irish and British is not at all a mutually exclusive thing.

The Northern Ireland of 2024 is made up of people who are British, Irish, Northern Irish and some emerging identities who don’t sit within any of the above. As unionists, our vision for a Northern Ireland that works for everyone is one that embraces all of these identities.

These people live, work and raise their families here because its their home. They must be able to feel at home whether in their Britishness, their Irishness or something in between. Building prosperity and economic success will keep our shared homeland firmly within the Union.

However, the choices that we make today will heavily influence the level of support for Northern Ireland within the Union for the next generation. A fully functioning Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, delivering on key issues, is the best way to build that support.

I am glad in recent weeks, that the membership of the DUP has been steadily growing. People are joining us from all walks of life. I am in the business of winning converts and growing support for Northern Ireland within the Union. The same applies both at Stormont and in our national parliament where I am determined to make a positive case for Northern Ireland and to win friends for our cause. A Unionism that turns in on itself is a unionism that offers no hope and no vision for the future.

There are some within Unionism who seem more focused on seeking out heretics. That might be interesting and for some even fulfilling, but it is the sure and certain path to self destruction and reducing support for our cause, rather than strengthening Northern Ireland’s place within the Union.

When I hear Mary Lou McDonald or Michelle O’Neill repeat calls for a border poll, I urge them too to recognise the diverse identities that make up Northern Ireland. Rather than seeking division and alienation of those who are pro-Northern Ireland, they would be better to focus on making the economy and our schools and hospitals here a success. They would be better to focus on justice and reconciliation in respect of the terrible deeds of the past, rather than seek further instability with a divisive border poll.

I reminded Parliament this week that we all need to focus on making Northern Ireland work. That’s what the people want.

Sinn Fein’s border poll talk is fantasy stuff.

In 2011, Gerry Adams told us Northern Ireland would have left the UK by 2016.

In August 2021, Gerry had changed 2016 to 2024.

In May 2022, Mary Lou McDonald called for a border poll by 2027.

In July 2022, Mary Lou McDonald changed from 2027 to 2030.

And just this month, Michelle O’Neill had shifted the Sinn Fein goalposts again to call for a border poll by 2034.

Let me be clear, Northern Ireland needs many things but a Border Poll is not one of them. Our focus should be on working together to make the place work. That must be our goal.

If Sinn Fein needs to throw border poll dates to the republican base, let’s not all get caught up in that game.

Our objective must be to make Northern Ireland an economic powerhouse for the United Kingdom.

This more than anything will secure our place in the Union for generations to come.”

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