The North's First Minister Peter Robinson announced today he would stand for Westminster in the forthcoming general election.
However the DUP leader pledged to end “double-jobbing” among colleagues who will give up seats in the Assembly if they are elected to the House of Commons.
The East Belfast MP said the prospect of a hung parliament meant it was important the party leader remained an MP. He launched the party’s general election campaign in Belfast today.
“While personally I made no secret of the fact that I would have been content to concentrate on the Assembly I understand the access that comes with being a member of parliament is important for the leader of unionism, whoever that is,” he said.
“In addition all our MPs and ministers will stand down from local government. The gaps left by these decisions will encourage and provide greater opportunities for those in our membership seeking to be involved in public service.”
He said the increased stability at Stormont, as well as the strength of the Assembly team, allowed the party to take these steps.
He added they had ensured local people would be in charge of a justice department while the independence of Chief Constable Matt Baggott and the judiciary would be upheld and maintained.
The party’s election slogan will be “Let’s Keep Northern Ireland Moving Forward”.
Mr Robinson accused the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), which opposes the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast, of “play-acting at its worst”.
He said: “As a party they ran out of steam years ago. They have no plan or ideas for the future. I see no evidence of any recovery in their electoral fortunes.
“They were too weak to take on Sinn Féin five years ago and are even weaker with their link to the Conservative Party now. They are a party of the past and not of the future.”
He said Jim Allister’s Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV), which opposes power-sharing with Sinn Fein, was dividing unionism further and playing into the hands of republicans.
“The TUV is Sinn Féin’s secret weapon for topping the poll,” he said. “Gerry Adams could not succeed in this quest without the help of Jim Allister. Jim is Gerry’s stooge.”
Mr Robinson said life in the North was unrecognisable from what it was a generation ago.
“No matter how difficult things may be no one wants to go back to the way things used to be. No-one pretends that things are perfect or that they are easy. Doing the right thing rarely is,” he added.
“At this election I am asking people to vote DUP for unionist unity, for strong positive unionist leadership, for the best long-term strategy for Northern Ireland, for the best deal at Westminster for Northern Ireland and to keep Northern Ireland moving forward.”