Jeffrey Donaldson: I regret that a unionist MLA has not welcomed the Â£1.5bn the DUP has delivered NI
The letter published in Thursday's News Letter by Robbie Butler MLA ('˜Time for Tory-DUP pact to end the sector pay cap,' July 12) on the agreement reached between the DUP and the Conservative Party that will deliver Â£1.5 billion of investment in frontline public services is deeply disappointing.
Robbie has consistently described his politics as being about hope over fear but in this instance he has reverted to the old type and chosen to wilfully misrepresent the position of the DUP.
There is not a word of welcome in his letter for any of the achievements of the DUP in this agreement. Hardly the new approach to politics Robbie promised the electorate.
It is disappointing that a unionist MLA, for purely party political reasons, cannot bring himself to welcome the fact that many of our constituents on waiting lists for medical procedures may now be able to have them sooner thanks to the additional monies the DUP has secured to ease pressures in the health service and to transform it.
As a so-called champion for the UUP on mental health, Robbie has not a single word to say to welcome the additional £50 million per year for five years secured by the DUP to improve mental health services in Northern Ireland. Nor does he mention the extra millions to ease pressures on local school budgets.
Are there no infrastructure projects in Lagan Valley that Robbie would like to see implemented using some of the additional £400 Million for this purpose secured by the DUP?
Perhaps the extra money for the roll out of broadband is meaningless to Robbie but it will actually benefit many of our constituents, including in rural communities.
Speaking of which, Robbie doesn’t mention our farmers for whom the DUP has secured a commitment from the government that they will continue to receive their farm payments at current cash fund levels. Are they not worthy of support just like the public sector?
The DUP appreciates all that our public sector workers do and we have consistently supported a fair pay rise for them, including healthcare staff, teachers, civil servants, fire & rescue, police etc. That remains our position.
The parliamentary vote that he refers to was an amendment by Jeremy Corbyn to the Queen’s Speech and had it succeeded, the government would not have been able to proceed with its legislative programme and the country would have faced yet another needless general election.
Robbie may be happy to see Jeremy Corbyn in power but many of his voters in Lagan Valley would not.
If the DUP had abandoned its agreement with the Conservatives and voted against them on the Queen’s speech, we would have lost the additional money for Northern Ireland and our hard pressed public services.
Real politics is about delivering for the people you represent and that is precisely what we have done. In contrast, the last time the UUP linked up with the Conservatives, the only thing they delivered was a peerage for party leader Reg Empey.
The proper place to deal with public sector pay is in the forthcoming budget where a balanced and responsible approach can be taken to our public finances.
The DUP will seek to use its influence at Westminster to deliver the lifting of the cap on public sector pay and a fair pay rise for public sector workers.
However, the budget should also ensure support for the private sector as even more of our constituents work in that sector, an inconvenient fact that merits no comment by Robbie in his statement.
I was elected to represent everyone, whether they be business owners, tradesmen or women, skilled and unskilled workers as well as those who work in the public sector.
Unlike Robbie, the DUP will not support the irresponsible approach taken by Labour with big spending proposals that are uncosted and will ultimately drive this country further into debt.
Sadly, Robbie’s letter merely serves to feed the increasing perception that in their desperate struggle to remain relevant, the UUP are in serious danger of losing the plot.
Rt Hon Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, DUP, Lagan Valley