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Last Updated: Monday, 26 March 2007, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Ian Paisley's statement in full
The full text of a statement by DUP leader Ian Paisley, speaking after his party and Sinn Fein agreed a devolution deal.

In 2003 the DUP became the largest political party in Northern Ireland and the last three and a half years has seen our strategy deliver very significant advances for the unionist people.

Our goal has been to see devolution returned in a context where it can make a real and meaningful improvement in the lives of all the people of this part of the United Kingdom.

On 7 March the unionist community gave us a mandate to deliver on this pledge.

On Saturday the DUP executive overwhelmingly endorsed a motion committing the party to support and participate fully in government in May of this year. This is a binding resolution.

In the past the government has set arbitrary deadlines but now, as laid out in our resolution we, as a party, have agreed the timing, setting up and working of the institutions.

Today, we have agreed with Sinn Fein that this date will be Tuesday 8 May 2007.

After a long and difficult time in the province I believe that enormous opportunities lie ahead for Northern Ireland
As the largest party in Northern Ireland we are committed to playing a full part in all the institutions and delivering the best future for the people of Northern Ireland.

In the period before devolution we will participate fully with the other parties to the executive in making full preparations for the restoration of devolution on 8 May.

This meeting represents an important step on the road to the setting up of an executive in six weeks' time.

It has been a constructive engagement and we have agreed that in the weeks between now and the restoration of devolution on 8 May there is important preparatory work to be carried out so that local ministers can hit the ground running.

This will include regular meetings between the future First and deputy First Minister.

The work must begin as quickly as possible and we have been considering a work programme to bring us to the agreed date for devolution which we are now asking the government to legislate for.

Regular meetings

There is still vital work to be done to ensure the most favourable financial package possible is in place to allow devolution to succeed and prosper.

To this end we have agreed with Sinn Fein to seek an early meeting with the chancellor.

In the next few days detailed work will begin involving all of the executive parties to allow a programme for government to be finalised for the start of devolution. This will require regular meetings in the next few weeks.

The two parties have already asked the prime minister to ensure that no water charge bills should be issued and the matter should be left for a local executive to determine.

We must not allow our justified loathing of the horrors and tragedies of the past to become a barrier to creating a better and more stable future
We hope, trust and believe that the secretary of state will listen to the voice of the people of Northern Ireland.

After a long and difficult time in the province I believe that enormous opportunities lie ahead for Northern Ireland.

Devolution has never been an end in itself but is about making a positive difference to people's lives.

I want to make it clear that I am committed to delivering not only for those who voted for the DUP but for all the people of Northern Ireland.

We must not allow our justified loathing of the horrors and tragedies of the past to become a barrier to creating a better and more stable future.

In looking to that future we must never forget those who have suffered during the dark period from which we are, please God, emerging.

We owe it to them to craft and build the best future possible and ensure there is genuine support for those who are still suffering.




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