Robinson: Most Catholics want to stay in UK

The North's First Minister Peter Robinson has said a majority of Catholics and Protestants now wish to remain within the United Kingdom.

Addressing his party’s annual conference, the Democratic Unionist Party leader said they were standing on the verge of a defining period for unionism.

“The siege has lifted, the Troubles as we knew them are over, and the constitutional debate has been won,” he said.

Mr Robinson, 63, said a majority across both communities in the North now support the constitutional position within the UK.

“They know they are better off with Britain,” he said.

Dismissing calls for a referendum on the border, Mr Robinson said it would not be the right thing to do despite his confidence of the outcome.

“Republicans asking for a border poll makes turkeys voting for Christmas look like a carefully considered strategy,” he told supporters.

Mr Robinson, who took over the party reins from founder Ian Paisley five years ago, warned members that the DUP had to be relevant to the modern world and must move with the times.

Insisting he would drive change where needed, he urged more than 700 delegates to look outward and beyond their normal horizons.

“My goal as leader is to lay the groundwork that will cement our place within the Union,” he said.

“If that means taking tough decisions or abandoning out-dated dogmas, then I’ll do it.”

Mr Robinson said the party had to challenge itself as well as others to build a society where everyone feels equally valued.

The main themes of the keynote address at the two-day gathering were the union, jobs and reconciliation.

Mr Robinson said he wanted to focus on a vision of hope, of progress, optimism and accomplishment for the future.

While the current economic difficulties are tough, they would pass in time and the North would emerge stronger than ever, he said.

To achieve this, he said unionists had to accept power sharing with Sinn Féin has increased support for the constitutional status quo in Northern Ireland.

“Some people still wonder, after all that has happened, how we can work with Sinn Féin," he added.

“The answer’s simple: it’s really not about us; it’s about making life better for the people we represent.

“It’s not always easy, but it’s absolutely the right thing to do.”

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney yesterday became the first Irish Government minister from the Republic of Ireland to address a DUP conference.

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