Dame Arlene Foster to form non-party pro-Union group to challenge ‘inevitability’ of Irish unity

Former first minister Dame Arlene Foster has confirmed she is forming a broad-based non-party pro-Union pressure group aimed at disrupting the notion that a united Ireland is inevitable.

Mrs Foster said a new movement comprised of local business, cultural and sporting figures along with ordinary pro-Union citizens would also highlight the benefits of remaining within the United Kingdom.

The ex-DUP leader told the News Letter that among those she wants to consult with before the official launch of the organisation would be leading lights in the pro-Union camp in Scotland.

Former Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson and former prime minister Gordon Brown played key roles in defeating the Scottish National Party’s separatist drive for an independent Scotland in the referendum of 2014.

Dame Arlene Foster said the new pro-Union movement would need to attract people from a 'non-party political background'

“I just felt the time was right to form an organisation outside of party politics to try and disrupt this dreadful notion that a united Ireland is somehow inevitable, which it isn’t. A lot of these nationalist pressure groups go on and on about the need to sit down and plan for Irish unity. But why would we want to plan for anything that is not going to happen and which the greater number don’t want to happen,” Mrs Foster said.

She said the new pro-Union movement needed to attract people from a “non party political background”.

“There are plenty of people out there who are not involved in political parties but are for the Union and we need to give them a voice to speak up for the UK as a whole. This idea is about all of the Union not just Northern Ireland.”

While Mrs Foster stressed that she “didn’t want to be pigeon-holed” in terms of modelling the new movement on organisations such as ‘Better Together’ in the Scottish referendum campaign she said she would like to reach out to the likes of Ruth Davidson and Gordon Brown. ‘Better Together’ was the principal campaign for the No vote against Scottish independence.

She also referred to her new job as a presenter on the online channel GB News and its relevance to her advocacy of unionism.

“One of the great things about working on GB News is to bring a better understanding of Northern Ireland to a wider audience and explain what is great about this place, and the importance of this place being in the UK.”

Mrs Foster continued: “When you are an elected local politician you don’t have time often to focus on the bigger picture. You are engaged in the day to day business of politics, representing your constituents and quite rightly helping them out and finding solutions for them. Since leaving party politics I can focus on things broader and deeper, on the Union itself, promoting and preserving it.”

The first woman ever appointed first minister of Northern Ireland added that she hoped to be able to formally launch the new movement by late summer or early autumn.