Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 17:14 UK

Empey 'proud' of Tory link-up

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Sir Reg Empey addressed the Conservative conference in Manchester

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey has told the Conservative conference that he wants Northern Ireland to be "at the very heart of the union".

He admitted that while relations between the two parties had been difficult at times over the years, he was proud of the new link-up.

The Conservative leader David Cameron reiterated his passionate belief in the union during his conference speech.

He said he was proud that Conservatives would stand in every part of the UK.

Mr Cameron paid tribute to those scarred by the IRA bomb at the Conservative conference in Brighton 25 years ago, arguing that his party understood its responsibility to protect people from terrorism.

He also talked of his pride in the joint force he has formed with the Ulster Unionist Party.

'Pan-UK unionism'

Sir Reg was the first UUP leader to address the Tory conference since David Trimble in 1998.

He told delegates that he did not want Northern Ireland "on the window ledge of the Union".

"The Union cannot work as a series of stand-alone relationships and vague connections," he said.

"It can only work credibly and coherently when there is a sense of common purpose, common belief and common good.

He said he believed in "pan-UK unionism" and a "philosophy that promotes a big Union rather than merely regional interests".

David Cameron
David Cameron talked of his pride in the joint force he formed with the UUP

Referring to the UUP's newly-forged links with the Conservatives, Sir Reg said: "We must never allow mistakes of the past to stand in the way of repairing and rebuilding the links and relationships."

The Conservatives have said they will fight every seat in the UK at the next election, including those in Northern Ireland.

Both the UUP and the Conservative associations in each Northern Ireland constituency will select a candidate.

Each will be put forward to a central joint selection committee, with the final choice to be approved by both Sir Reg and David Cameron.



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