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Let's get it right for the sake of all our futures

(Ian Paisley, Irish News)

Our manifesto is entitled 'Getting it Right'. This is the key issue for the DUP in this campaign and throughout our negotiations over recent years. It is a strategy that is delivering.

Our manifesto sets out our achievements over the last three and a half years since we became the largest political party in Northern Ireland.

It reaffirms our terms for setting up a power sharing executive, and our proposals to tackle the challenges facing Northern Ireland once in government.

I believe that over the last three and a half years the DUP have a record to be proud of. In November 2003 people put their faith in the DUP and I believe the record will demonstrate that we have repaid that trust.

Republicans have been forced to jump first and deliver before government can be established. On any analysis huge progress has been made towards a lasting form of democratic devolution. Devolution which leaves the vital matters of support for democratic and lawful standards to be resolved after the executive is formed is doomed to fail. We intend to get these issues right before entry to government. We have already made very considerable progress and will compel republicans to make full, and hopefully early, delivery.

Our manifesto is clear, we need delivery. Republicans know what they need to do. Sinn Féin making support for the police and the rule of law conditional on them first being in government is unacceptable.

We require upfront and proven delivery. There can be no cherry-picking of policing functions, with no distinctions between civic policing and policing to combat paramilitary crime. The government has accepted the DUP stipulation that there must be public support for policing, the courts and the rule of law and that it must be demonstrated in a tangible and practical way.

While progress is being made as a result of our stance it is essential that we do not take the pressure off republicans. The DUP will continue to be condition-led not calendar-led.

Northern Ireland needs stability. We cannot afford an assembly that stutters from one predicament to another. We must ensure any arrangements are durable.

As well as the central constitutional issue our manifesto sets out our policy priorities across a whole range of issues. If we can get the political context right there are numerous matters that are impacting on people's lives. We have policies that can improve the lives of people in Northern Ireland. At every level of government we have proved that we are the party that can make a difference.

One of the key issues for the DUP in this election is tackling the tax problem. Householders in Northern Ireland are facing unprecedented increases in the level of local taxes. Rarely in all my years in politics has there been an issue that has generated so much opposition as the government's plan to introduce water charges.

People rightly believe that they have been paying for water and are now being asked to pay twice, and that it is unfair to charge them for water on the basis of the value of their homes. These concerns must be addressed.

It would be wrong to pretend that there are any simple solutions to this problem but, I believe, with a strong mandate to negotiate with the Treasury, a solution can be found.

Over the years the DUP has deservedly won the reputation of being a low-tax party. On this and all the other issues we are discussing on door-steps around the province, our aim is to build a better future for all the people of Northern Ireland.

March 5, 2007

This article appeared first in the March 3, 2007 edition of the Irish News.

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