DUP politicians enter their annual conference today in confident mood, assured, as a party of government and with solid representation at Westminster, that they speak for a majority of unionists.
First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson has successfully led the party to the central hub of unionism, by outpolling Ulster Unionist rivals in successive elections over the past decade, and this gradual expansion has cultivated a new breed of politicians who are making a mark at Stormont.
The DUP began 40 years ago as a fundamentalist political movement, imbued with the religious fervour of founder Ian Paisley, and, while the strict moral compass of the party is still intact on traditional value issues, there is now a more open, challenging debate within Democratic Unionist circles that is inevitable and important for an organisation seeking to broaden its appeal across the wide spectrum of unionism.
Peter Robinson has given a firm commitment that his main aim is a stable Northern Ireland, with political structures well-established and the Union totally secure. “I am determined that the Union is not only maintained, but strengthened,” he said.
In protecting unionism from its enemies and detractors in Northern Ireland and beyond, Peter Robinson and the DUP cannot do this on their own. The Ulster Unionist Party, Traditional Unionist Voice and other organisations that are also committed to maintaining the UK link should, at every opportunity, stand together, with the DUP, to protect our cherished British citizenship, heritage and culture.
Unionist parties amicably working alongside one another is a strength that will always instil real confidence.