Arlene Foster behind new Together UK Foundation to promote benefits of Union

Dame Arlene Foster has dismissed reports that she plans to embark on a UK-wide ‘save the Union’ tour along with former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.
Former DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Dame Arlene Foster. Photo: Liam McBurney/PAFormer DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Dame Arlene Foster. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA
Former DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Dame Arlene Foster. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

However, the former DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister has confirmed that a new pro-Union organisation is being established to promote the benefits of living in the United Kingdom.

Mrs Foster, who now works as a presenter on the GB News television channel, said the Together UK Foundation will promote pro-Union voices in a future of the Union debate that has become “increasingly emotional and angry”.

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She said: “It is because of my firm belief in the benefits of the Union, against this backdrop of ongoing threats to its existence, that I and others are setting up a new organisation: the Together UK Foundation.

“We will bring mainstream pro-union voices from across the entire UK to highlight the benefits the Union brings to us all – mostly without us realising it.

“The conversation on the future of the Union has become increasingly emotional and angry. Political tribalism and aggressive nationalism have poisoned debate and ordinary voters in towns across Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales no longer hear anything other than hostile attacks. It puts everyone off; we must rise above it.”

Mrs Foster told the News Letter that the new foundation will have its official launch soon.

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Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, she said: “While we firmly believe in the Union and disagree with divisive nationalism, we aim to make the positive, rational case for maintaining it – not simply to attack the motives and values of our political opponents.”

Mrs Foster also stressed that the foundation will be “explicitly non-party political” in its approach, and that its members are looking forward to working with mainstream politicians from across the UK.

“Rightly, people are warning of the terrible headwinds that will face the new prime minister as they walk into Downing Street: the cost of living crisis; the ongoing conflict in Ukraine; Chinese aggression towards Taiwan; and all the rest,” she said.

“Each of these crises is enough to blow a new prime minister off course and enough to scare everyone else. But each of these crises will be easier to face if we face them together, our Union intact,” Mrs Foster added.

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In the same article, Mrs Foster she was backing Liz Truss ahead of rival Rishi Sunak for leader of the Conservatives.

She quoted Ms Truss as considering herself a “child of the Union,” and added: “Given ongoing threats to the Union, we need a prime minister with the determination and creativity to persuade voters who may be wondering what benefits the Union really brings to them.”

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie has said the time had come for unionists to “start thinking strategically” to ensure the preservation of the Union.

He was commenting in response to the latest Lucid Talk poll, which suggests 57% of 18-24-year-olds want to see a united Ireland, with only 35% saying they favoured Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.

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However, the poll also showed that, at present, 48% would vote to remain in the UK compared to 41% against.

Another positive for unionists is that two-thirds of those who did not vote in either the 2022 NI Assembly election or the 2019 Westminster general election would vote in an Irish unity referendum, and would vote in favour of maintaining the Union.

Mr Beattie said: “The key, regardless of polls, is to start thinking strategically.”

During a Twitter exchange on the subject, Mr Beattie said he accepted that republicans were “well ahead” of unionists when it came to strategic thinking.

“Yes…. we are our own worse enemies,” he said.

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The latest poll results also led to Sinn Fein’s John Finucane calling for the Irish Government to be more pro-active in preparing for eventual Irish unity.

He said: “The Irish government should lead those preparations by immediately establishing a Citizens’ Assembly on Irish unity to help shape the new Ireland.

“Sinn Féin will begin a people’s conversation from October. We want to hear from everybody on their views on the future.”