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Politics in Northern Ireland ‘deeply broken’ - Swann

Robin Swann gave his conference speech on Saturday afternoon. Credit: Press Eye

UUP Leader Robin Swann has said politics in Northern Ireland is “deeply broken”.

Giving his party conference speech on Saturday afternoon, Mr Swann said he could sum up the past 12 months with “botched government, blunders and boilers”.

He accused the DUP of “dragging unionism into the gutter”.

Northern Ireland has been without local government since the Assembly collapsed last January and efforts to restore the institutions have thus far been unsuccessful.

Robin Swann said “there will never be a perfect time to hold talks, so let’s get on with it”.

He said: “Listening to the rhetoric of Sinn Féin and some within the DUP it is clear that we are not going to see the restoration of devolution anytime soon.

“Although there is little point in rushing back if we are just going to pick up where we left off.

“You only have to spend five minutes listening to the evidence at the RHI Inquiry to know that there is a major piece of work needed before we can restore the institutions.

“The fact is that Sinn Féin and the DUP have strayed so far from good governance that it will take time to rebuild our institutions.”

Robin Swann, who has led the Ulster Unionist Party since April 2017, said the Government must intervene if it believes there is no prospect of restoring devolution.

He went on: “And where is the UK Government in all this?

“While Northern Ireland sits in a state of political paralysis, how is it fulfilling its duty to the people of this part of the United Kingdom?

“They can’t just sit idly by and hope we keep quiet until after Brexit.

“Stop letting the people of Northern Ireland wither on the vine because you’re either too busy looking over your shoulder at the DUP and frozen in fear at the thought of upsetting Sinn Féin sensitivities.

“Stop telling us that you’re the ‘Conservative and Unionist Party’ like that’s enough. It’s time to prove you are.”

Mr Swann said he is “inclined to think there’s a battle to save the union from the DUP”.

He said: “If you somehow have become confused and think that sectarianism, racism or homophobia are tenets of unionism, then I am not at all sorry to say that the Ulster Unionist Party is not the party for you.

“Our place in the union will be secured by winning hearts and minds. So let’s get on with it.

“And if the DUP want to spend their time acting the eejit and dishing out hollow threats – let them work away.

“Because we have work to be getting on with.”