Conservative Party’s commitment to Northern Ireland ‘guaranteed’, says chairman

The Conservative Party’s commitment to Northern Ireland is “guaranteed” by the fact they are running General Election candidates in the region, James Cleverly has said.

The Conservatives are the only one of the three cross-UK political parties to field candidates in Northern Ireland.

Conservative Party chairman Mr Cleverly said if the Conservatives got a “stable working majority” after the December 12 poll, they would deliver Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

“The promise we are making at this General Election is if the people here in Northern Ireland vote for our fantastic local Conservative and Unionist candidates, and if as a party we are able to get a stable working majority after this General Election, we will vote through this deal, we will leave by the end of January, we will refocus Parliament and we will refocus government on delivering on the international investment that is waiting to come into the UK,” he said.

“That we will invest in the National Health Service, we will invest in education, that we will invest in policing and business … and we will do it for every single corner of the United Kingdom.

“Our guarantee stamp is that we are the only party fielding candidates in every corner of the United Kingdom. That is our hallmark of commitment to the United Kingdom.”

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly speaking at the manifesto launch (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Cleverly also ruled out revisiting elements of the deal which have sparked opposition in Northern Ireland, where unionists have expressed alarm at the proposed regulatory border down the Irish Sea.

“We have made it absolutely clear this agreement is ready to go, it has agreement on both sides of the channel, it works on behalf of all parts of the United Kingdom … and if we get a majority, this is the deal that we will deliver,” he said.

Mr Cleverly was speaking alongside Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith at the launch of the party’s manifesto in the region at the Culloden Hotel in Co Down.

Pledges in the NI Conservatives’ manifesto include standing for a “modern unionism”, getting Stormont back to work, backing the Brexit deal and modernising the Northern Ireland economy.

Conservative candidates alongside Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith (right) (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Northern Ireland Conservatives are contesting four of the region’s 18 constituencies at next month’s General Election.

Gary Hynds, the party’s deputy chairman in the region, will run as a candidate in Lagan Valley.

Matthew Robinson will stand in North Down, Grant Abraham in Strangford and Aaron Rankin in East Antrim.

Addressing the event, Mr Abraham said he heard the frustration and sense of disenfranchisement with politics in Northern Ireland due to “dormant Stormont”, referring to the devolved government which has been collapsed for almost three years.

Grant Abraham, Conservative candidate for Strangford (Liam McBurney/PA)

“We feel exactly the same way and this is why we are here today, so we can build a new way forward for all of the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.

Mr Abraham said the Brexit deal should be regarded as “another dividend of peace”.

“It both strengthens the union and unifies our trade channels with the EU,” he said.

“We will not be a place set apart, there will be no blood red lines down the Irish Sea. The surest way to secure the union is to build a strong and flourishing local economy that is not subject to fear and insecurity.

“This is the space where we can turn our backs on the gnawing fear of sectarianism and build a future we all hope for, the future our past politicians have failed to deliver.”

While the Conservative Party won the last General Election across the UK, they perform comparatively poorly across Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies.

The party does not have any elected representatives in the region.

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