FORMER First Minister Arlene Foster has said she “hasn’t gone away” and revealed she is currently working on what she called a “new movement” to lobby on behalf of the North’s place in the UK.
Similar to the successful pro-union movement in Scotland prior to its independence referendum in 2014, Ms Foster stressed the new group would not be party political, and would involve grass roots unionists from all walks of life.
She said she wanted the group to “disrupt the narrative” that a united Ireland was “inevitable.”
Mrs Foster was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster after being honoured with a damehood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last week.
She said wanted the group to “reach right across the United Kingdom” to spread its message.
“It’s not a new party, it’s a new movement,” she explained, stating she looked forward to speaking about it more in future.
Asserting her belief the North was better off economically, politically, socially, and culturally in the UK, Mrs Foster said there was “much to do in terms of the union.”
“I haven’t gone away in terms of advocating for the Union,” said the Fermanagh woman, who now works for GB News and has been a regular commentator on unionist politics in the media since resigning from as First Minister and leader of the DUP last year.
Mrs Foster elaborated further on the plan in an interview with the News Letter, in which she explained the new group would be comprised of local business representatives, sporting and cultural figures, and ordinary citizens.
She said she wanted to consult with leaders of the pro-union lobby in Scotland, which had involved former Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson and former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
However, she said she didn’t want the group to be exactly modelled on the Scottish ‘Better Together’ campaign or to be party political.
“There are plenty of people out there who are not involved in political parties but are for the Union and we need to give them a voice to speak up for the UK as a whole,” said Mrs Foster. “This idea is about all of the Union not just Northern Ireland.”
Overall, Mrs Foster said the movement would be about looking to the future.
“I just felt the time was right to form an organisation outside of party politics to try and disrupt this dreadful notion that a united Ireland is somehow inevitable, which it isn’t.” she said.
“A lot of these nationalist pressure groups go on and on about the need to sit down and plan for Irish unity. But why would we want to plan for anything that is not going to happen and which the greater number don’t want to happen.”
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