SJeffrey Donaldson said the DUP does not fear another general election and if the government fails to right “the wrongs” of the protocol it is ready to take its case to the people.
Speaking at the party’s annual conference in Belfast, Mr Donaldson said his position on restoring power-sharing institutions was clear.
“Let me be clear – either the Prime Minister will provide the provisions of the Protocol Act through legislation or through negotiations and ensure our place in the UK is restored, or there will be no basis for re-entry into Stormont,” he said .
“In this issue we must see action, not words, and we will judge any outcome on the basis of actions, not words.”
He began his first speech at a DUP annual conference as leader by expressing his sadness at the deaths in Creeslough.
“I would like to offer our condolences to the families who lost their lives in the tragic events in Donegal yesterday afternoon and those injured as a result of this blast are our top priority,” he said.
“We assure the people of Cresslough of our prayers together and want them to know that they will continue to be in our thoughts in the days to come,” he said.
In a wide-ranging speech calling for union unity to win more seats in Stormont in the future, Donaldson said the prospect of voting again at Christmas did not intimidate the DUP.
“We are not afraid of new elections, quite the opposite. If the Foreign Secretary calls a general election in the absence of his government righting the wrongs done to Northern Ireland, we are ready and will take our case to the people as the leading trade union party.
“We will campaign like never before for another new mandate from the people,” he said.
The DUP leader’s log problem could not be addressed simply by reducing the number of checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from the UK.
“The controls at the Irish Sea border are symptomatic of the underlying problem, which is that Northern Ireland is subject to other laws imposed on us by a foreign body without a say or vote by an elected representative of the people of Northern Ireland. ” he said.
“For the benefit of those watching in London and Brussels, let me reiterate our clear commitment.
“If decisive action is taken on Protocol that fully restores our place within the UK, this party will resume its place in a fully functioning executive.
“We have the support of many thousands across Northern Ireland who want us to prevail on this most fundamental issue.”
Mr Donaldson warned that the government “must be sensitive and wise if it is to rebuild trade union confidence and create the conditions for lasting power-sharing”.
He said: “The price of emerging from the long shadow of the Northern Ireland Protocol is great. The award is not just for unions but for all of Northern Ireland and not just for the UK but for the EU too.
“Imagine how future agreements could transform relationships within Northern Ireland, across the UK and with our nearest neighbors in the Republic of Ireland.
“As the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Accords approaches, surely this is the position all governments and parties want to be in?”
The DUP leader said his party “could be tested like never before” in the coming weeks.
He added: “Let us not be found wanting but face the challenges ahead so that future generations, when they look back on this time, can say of us that our legacy was not based on short-term solutions, but on long-term solutions.” that we have secured for all people in Northern Ireland.”
Calling for Unionist unity going forward, Mr Donaldson said May’s election results should be a “wake-up call” and lessons needed to be learned: “Unionism has won 44% of the seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
“As unionists we have to be honest with each other; It was not nationalists or others who caused the loss of several pro-union seats in the election.
“That was the direct result of a fragmented union movement, with seats lost in Strangford, North Antrim and East Antrim.
“Each of these constituencies had four union quotas, but only three unionists were elected in each constituency. That is not sustainable if we want to win.”
The DUP leader added: “Those of us in this room are mature enough to know that providing more coherent unionism cannot be achieved by attacking other unionists.
“It requires cooperation and effort from everyone who wants to strengthen our place within the Union. Everywhere I go I get a consistent message from unionists, they want us to work together.
“You can see that broken union movements were costing seats and bringing victories to our opponents just five months ago. While some are content to fabricate arguments with other unionists, I am not.
“I have more in common with my union brothers and sisters than what divides us. As your leader, I will leave no stone unturned in my quest to build the union unity our people are crying out for.”
Mr Donaldson said being part of the UK has given Northern Ireland, with a population of less than two million, “a place on the world stage”.
He added: “The argument to leave the UK is based on economic myths and fantasy politics; the political facts of life are unionized.
“As I celebrate the past and our many achievements, my trade union movement does not long to return to a bygone age but looks forward to a new one.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/dup-does-not-fear-fresh-election-far-from-it-jeffrey-donaldson-addresses-party-conference-42050533.html “The DUP is not afraid of new elections, quite the opposite”: Jeffrey Donaldson speaks at the party conference