I want to address three issues in the short time available to me. First, this election is happening in the midst of political discussions in Northern Ireland about the formation of an Executive. That is unfortunate. I want to make it clear that, as far as our party is concerned, we are responding positively to the Secretary of State’s request for discussions to continue in Northern Ireland. We have made it clear—along with the Social Democratic and Labour party and the Ulster Unionists—that we are ready to form an Executive. We do not believe in setting red lines or preconditions about important matters such as health and education funding and the future of public services in our Province. Those things are far more important than some of the issues that are now said to divide us, so we are ready to get the Executive up and running today, next week or whenever. We do not need prolonged negotiations.
Secondly, on Brexit, Northern Ireland’s position is different from that of the rest of the United Kingdom. That has been made clear in the Government’s paper, which recognises our special circumstances. It is absolutely imperative that Northern Ireland’s voice is heard very strongly. That is why it is such a tragedy that Sinn Féin has walked away from the Executive, collapsed the Assembly and forced us into an unnecessary Assembly election, while boycotting this place and demanding special status, which has been rejected by the Irish Republic, the European Union and even the European Parliament when it set out its negotiating position. Nobody accepts the need for special status, although we agree with the need for special arrangements that recognise Northern Ireland’s special circumstances. It is essential that, in the forthcoming general election, the people of Northern Ireland recognise that they have a clear choice between a party that has walked away and abandoned its responsibilities on a number of fronts and a party that will enter Government in Northern Ireland, that takes its seats here and that contributes and raises its voice to stand up for Northern Ireland.
Finally, this election will provide clarity on the big issue of how this country is to go forward. It will provide clarity on the Union that really matters: the Union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Again, the people of Northern Ireland will have a clear choice on that issue. They will have a clear choice on whether to rally round and state firmly that they want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom or to go down the route presented by Sinn Féin, whose Marxist-Leninist concept of a republic has been rejected even by most of those who accept its nationalism. They reject the party’s economic outlook. The only way to support the Union is to rally behind the Democratic Unionist party on