DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson dismisses suggestions his party using ‘scare tactics’ to attract voters

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has dismissed suggestions his party is using “scare” tactics to attract voters through claiming a Sinn Féin victory election victory will lead to a border poll.

Launching his party’s manifesto on Thursday at a Co Armagh factory, Mr Donaldson said the May 5th poll was “undoubtedly one of the most important elections in our history”.

He insisted the DUP five-point plan – based around economic improvement, NHS reform, education opportunities, tackling the cost-of-living crisis and removal of the Northern Ireland Protocol – would form the “basis” upon which he will “lead” the next Assembly and “govern Northern Ireland”.

Earlier this year, the DUP collapsed the Stormont Executive by resigning its First Minister in protest over the protocol, which effectively created a post-Brexit border in the Irish Sea.

Manifesto pledges include an extra £1bn investment to cut hospital waiting lists by partnering with the private sector, and supporting the creation of 20,000 jobs over the next five years.

Free childcare

Plans to deliver 30 hours of free childcare per week to families are also set out.

Unveiling the 60-page ‘action plan’, Mr Donaldson made repeated references to Sinn Féin, claiming a “divisive border poll” was inevitable if they become the Assembly’s largest political party – and appealed for “Unionist unity” on election day through the North’s vote transfer system:

“Transfers will matter and the decisions taken next Thursday will determine the direction of Northern Ireland for years to come.”

While Mr Donaldson said he “believes” the DUP can win, he added: “Suppose Mary Lou McDonald or Michelle O’Neill are standing up next week to declare a Sinn Féin victory, does anyone seriously believe that in their victory speech the border poll issue won’t be front and centre?”

When asked by the media about the use of negative tactics in his party’s election campaign, Mr Donaldson replied: “Look, this is not about scaring anyone. It is about pointing out the real choice that people have in this election.

“We are not inventing this. Right at the heart of the Sinn Féin manifesto is their demand for a date for a border poll.”

Earlier this week, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald insisted her party’s Irish unity campaign could continue alongside efforts to tackle the cost of living crisis and a “broken” health service. She declined to be drawn on a specific timetable for a referendum for a united Ireland – but said the next decade was one of “opportunity”.

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