03 February 2006

DUP to lobby for American support

BBC

Democratic Unionists may appoint a representative in the United States to put the party's case to opinion formers, the DUP leader has said.

On the eve of his party's annual conference in Belfast on Saturday, Ian Paisley said the time was right to lobby for support in America.

Mr Paisley also intends to accept an invitation to meet four US senators in Washington in March.

Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists have established strong links in America.

"About 100 years ago there were Ulster societies all over the place but they merged themselves into the country," Mr Paisley said.

"The Irish have never fully merged themselves. It is still Irish America. We need to address this issue.

'Right time'

"This is the time to do it because the present administration in Washington is more favourable than the Democrats," he said.

The DUP leader, who will be 80 years old in April, also insisted that he has never contemplated retiring from politics.

"If I were to give in at this stage, all my followers would be aghast," he said.

"They would be saying: 'The Big Man must know we are going to lose.' I just couldn't afford to do that," he said.

The Democratic Unionist Party became the largest party in Northern Ireland, after it captured nine Westminster seats in the 2005 election.

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