Unionist unity plea issued from DUP MP Carla Lockhart at party conference

Addressing delegates, Ms Lockhart said her party was the “undisputed voice” of unionism. Credit: PA

The DUP conference in Belfast has heard a plea for unionist unity from Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart. Addressing delegates, Ms Lockhart said her party was the “undisputed voice” of unionism but it had to “build a broad coalition of support for the people who want to make Northern Ireland work”. She said division and infighting had cost unionism votes, seats and influence in recent elections.

She said: “There is nothing more frustrating, or demoralising, than standing outside a polling station in a supposed unionist/loyalist heartland watching dribs and drabs of voters entering the polling station. “Despite the hard work that this party puts into serving and delivering for our communities – and we do deliver for these communities – not enough people feel exercised enough to vote.” She said this was caused by divisions within unionism. “Divided unionism demoralises our people who want to see co-operation, and who crave unity. As a result they stay at home. “They are fed up, as I am, of intra-unionist infighting and attacks.” She added: “Faced with a constitutional enemy that is coalescing around Sinn Fein, the message from grassroots unionism is clear – work together and get our voters out.” Ms Lockhart said apathy and divisions in unionism had allowed Sinn Fein to become the largest party at Stormont. She added: “We have talked about unionist co-operation for long enough. Further delay is simply unacceptable. “We do not have the luxury of time. “My message to the other unionist leaders today, for whom I have a great deal of respect, is clear – Doug (Beattie, Ulster Unionist leader), Jim (Allister, TUV leader), please work with us to deliver what our people want. “The DUP are the party that can at Westminster ensure the shinner bots are given the reality check they need. “The reward will be more seats for unionism and more influence for unionism and more for Northern Ireland.”

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