Latest: Union will be our guiding star in forging deal with Theresa May, says DUP leader

Latest: Union will be our guiding star in forging deal with Theresa May, says DUP leader

Update 6.41pm: Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster has pledged to work in the interests of the entire United Kingdom as she expressed willingness to help Theresa May form a government.

The former Stormont first minister, who led her party to 10 seats in the Westminster election, said the DUP would strive for the best deal, not only for Northern Ireland but for the UK as a whole.

While Mrs Foster vowed to bring stability to Westminster, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams poured scorn on the anticipated confidence and supply deal between the Conservatives and DUP.

"History will show, alliances between Ulster unionism and British unionism has always ended in tears," he said.

"It is far better to look to our own place, to all of the people here, to deal with the people of this island, this part of the island as one community."

Flanked by her 10 MPs, Mrs Foster confirmed the party would enter discussions with the Tories to "explore how it may be possible to bring stability to our nation at this time of great challenge".

Mrs Foster described her party's resounding victory in Northern Ireland as "truly historic".

The Democratic Unionists have emerged from the election in the enviable position of being king makers at Westminster.

"Yesterday also represented a great result for the Union," said Mrs Foster.

"Not just here in Northern Ireland but right across our United Kingdom.

"Those who want to tear apart the Union that we cherish and benefit from so hugely have been sent a clear and resounding message."

"In the days and weeks ahead, it is that Union that will be to the forefront of our minds. The Union is our guiding star.

"We may represent Northern Ireland constituencies in the House of Commons but we are as seized of the interests of the Kingdom as a whole as we are for our small province.

"I make no apology for saying that the DUP will always strive for the best deal for Northern Ireland and its people. But equally, we want the best for all of the United Kingdom."

Ms Foster described the uncertainty facing the UK, following the recent terror attacks, the close run election and Brexit negotiations on the horizon.

She added: "Our United Kingdom - and indeed our very way of life - are under threat from extremists."

Ahead of the talks with Conservatives, a senior DUP member said any deal would not extend beyond a confidence and supply arrangement.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said his party was in a "fantastic position to deliver for Northern Ireland".

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she will work with "friends and allies" in the DUP to enable her to lead a government.

Before the 2015 election, with the pollsters predicting a hung parliament, the DUP ruled out a potential formal coalition with the Conservatives, instead indicating its support would be offered in a confidence and supply arrangement from the opposition benches.

Mr Robinson said: "We have essentially got the result we were campaigning for two years ago.

"It didn't materialise then but we campaigned on the basis of a hung parliament two years ago.

"I think that puts us in a fantastic position to deliver for Northern Ireland."

The DUP made its position clear in the election campaign that it wanted a Tory government.

In a speech cancelled in the wake of the Manchester terror attack, Mrs Foster planned to describe Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as "beyond the political pale" because of his past support for Irish republicans.

Update 5.04pm: The Democratic Unionist Party has often found itself embroiled in controversy over its stance on gay rights issues.

Founded on the evangelical principles of the late Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian church, Northern Ireland's largest political party has been repeatedly at odds with the region's LGBT community.

Their differences highlight Northern Ireland's often stark dichotomy between religious-based social conservatism and secular progressive liberalism.

Latest: Union will be our guiding star in forging deal with Theresa May, says DUP leader

The DUP has repeatedly used a controversial Stormont voting mechanism - the petition of concern - to prevent the legalisation of same-sex marriage, despite a majority of MLAs supporting the move at the last vote.

While the party insists it is protecting the "traditional" definition of marriage, critics have denounced its stance as homophobic.

Going back decades, the DUP was at the vanguard of the failed Save Ulster from Sodomy movement that campaigned against the 1982 legalisation of homosexual sex in Northern Ireland.

In more recent times, former first minister Peter Robinson's wife Iris, then an MP, described homosexuality as an "abomination", while the MP son of Dr Paisley, Ian Paisley Jr, said he felt "repulsed" by homosexual acts.

A party councillor in Ballymena reportedly claimed Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,500 people in the US, was God's revenge for New Orleans hosting an annual gay pride event.

Former DUP Stormont minister Edwin Poots once hit out at a gay rugby team in Belfast, accusing it of introducing a sporting "apartheid" against heterosexual players.

Mr Poots also ended up in court for upholding a ban on gay men giving blood and, in a separate case, objecting to gay couples adopting. In the former case an appeal judge overturned a finding that he was motivated by bias.

In the 2015 general election campaign, DUP health minister Jim Wells resigned amid a controversy about remarks he made about same sex couples.

With pollsters predicting a hung parliament two years ago, the furore and the wider topic of the DUP's approach to LGBT issues permeated the election debate across the Irish Sea.

Then prime minister David Cameron said he would "never validate" the DUP's position on gay rights while deputy PM Nick Clegg claimed some of the party's views were "backwards".

Last year, DUP Stormont MLA Trevor Clarke admitted he thought only gay people could contract HIV.

Defending her party's stance on gay marriage in a recent interview, leader Arlene Foster insisted those who characterised the DUP as anti-gay were wide of the mark.

"They are wrong and they need to understand why we take those positions from a faith point of view and why we want to protect the definition of marriage," she said.

"I could not care less what people get up to in terms of their sexuality, that's not a matter for me, when it becomes a matter for me is when people try to redefine marriage."

Earlier:

Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster has said talks will begin with Theresa May on the formation of a new government.

The former Stormont first minister, who led her party to 10 seats in the Westminster election, said the DUP will strive for the best deal for Northern Ireland, its people and an agreement that is best for the United Kingdom.

"The Prime Minister has spoken with me this morning and we will enter discussions with the Conservatives to explore how it may be possible to bring stability to our nation at this time of great challenge," she said.

Ms Foster described her party's resounding victory in Northern Ireland as "truly historic" as the DUP recorded its best ever election result.

Sending a powerful team of 10 MPs to a hung parliament puts the Democratic Unionists in the enviable position of being kingmakers at Westminster.

Mrs Foster, flanked by each one of her representatives in the House of Commons, did not take any questions after confirming plans for talks with the Conservatives.

"Yesterday also represented a great result for the Union. Not just here in Northern Ireland but right across our United Kingdom," she said.

"Those who want to tear apart the Union that we cherish and benefit from so hugely have been sent a clear and resounding message."

"In the days and weeks ahead, it is that Union that will be to the forefront of our minds. The Union is our "guiding star".

"We may represent Northern Ireland constituencies in the House of Commons but we are as seized of the interests of the Kingdom as a whole as we are for our small province.

"I make no apology for saying that the DUP will always strive for the best deal for Northern Ireland and its people. But equally, we want the best for all of the United Kingdom."

Ms Foster described the uncertainty facing the UK, following the recent terror attacks, the close run election and Brexit negotiations on the horizon.

She added: "Our United Kingdom - and indeed our very way of life - are under threat from extremists."

Ahead of the talks with Conservatives, a senior DUP member said any deal will not extend beyond a confidence and supply arrangement.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said his party was in a "fantastic position to deliver for Northern Ireland".

Prime Minister Theresa May earlier announced that she would work with "friends and allies" in the DUP to enable her to lead a government.

Prior to the 2015 election, with the pollsters predicting a hung parliament, the DUP ruled out a potential formal coalition with the Conservatives, instead indicating its support would be offered in a confidence and supply arrangement from the opposition benches.

Mr Robinson said: "We have essentially got the result we were campaigning for two years ago.

"It didn't materialise then but we campaigned on the basis of a hung parliament two years ago. I think that puts us in a fantastic position to deliver for Northern Ireland."

The DUP made its positions clear in the election campaign that it wanted a Tory government.

In a speech cancelled in the wake of the Manchester terror attack, Mrs Foster planned to describe Jeremy Corbyn as "beyond the political pale" because of his past support for Irish republicans.

She attacked the Labour leader's credibility, including warning that it was hard to take him seriously because of his meetings with political representatives of the IRA at the height of the Troubles.

Mrs Foster was due to set out her stall at a meeting of the pro-Brexit Bruges Group in Mayfair on May 22, but pulled the speech after Ariana Grande's concert in Manchester was targeted by a suicide bomber.

The DUP and Sinn Féin dealt a series of devastating blows to their rivals in Northern Ireland to emerge from the General Election stronger than ever.

The two main parties advanced as the Ulster Unionists and SDLP were wiped off the Westminster map, failing to secure any seats.

'Comeuppance' for Theresa May

Sinn Féin's seven MPs are not part of calculations to form a government because the republican party refuses to take its seats in Westminster.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams hailed what he described as a historic result for his party.

"Sinn Féin respects the mandate we have received and our electorate who voted in such huge numbers," he said.

"Nationalists and republicans have turned their back on Westminster and accept that the centre of political gravity is now on the island of Ireland.

"The Taoiseach and DUP need to focus on restoring the political institutions.

"Theresa May sought a mandate for Brexit, austerity and the erosion of human rights. She got her comeuppance.

"The Irish government needs to seize the initiative to secure designated special status for the North as part of the Brexit negotiations."

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