Sir Reg Empey,
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for South Antrim
For most of my political life manifesto launches in Northern Ireland have summed up how our politics was cut off from mainstream British politics.
Across all parties, we talked about what we would like to do ...
but it stopped there. Why?
Because Northern Ireland was a place apart. We had no real say in who would be Prime Minister of our country. No meaningful role in the Mother of Parliaments. No chance of being involved in the government of the United Kingdom. Well, we have changed all that …
We, the two great parties who stand on this manifesto have already changed politics in Northern Ireland. The Ulster Unionist Party - the party that ensured Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom. The party which defended democratic values against the onslaught of terrorism during the dark years of the Troubles. The party which took the courageous decision in 1998 to build the peace.
And our colleagues and friends in the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party which governed the United Kingdom for most of the 20th century. Stood firm during the Cold War, ended British decline and restored British pride. And is now ready to give the decisive government required to lead our country out of recession.
Our two great parties are now working together in partnership to build on these achievements. And to end Northern Ireland's semi-detached status within the United Kingdom.
William Hague's presence with us demonstrates the Conservative and Unionist conviction that Northern Ireland is not a place apart - but an integral part of the United Kingdom. Needless to say, you are once again very welcome to Northern Ireland.
This Conservatives and Unionists manifesto - a manifesto for a government of the entire United Kingdom - signals that the days are past when Northern Ireland was relegated to the window-ledge of the Union. This is a manifesto to put Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union. A manifesto which expresses unionism's historic belief in 'our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom'.
Others in this election tell us that Northern Ireland would be best served by a hung parliament. It is hard to believe that self-proclaimed unionists are actually promoting this. Not only would a hung parliament undermine the ability of a government to take the decisive action required to lead our country out of recession. It would hand influence to the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, determined to break up the Union. It would hand influence to the Lib Dems, determined to see the UK in the Euro and governed by a federal Europe.
Those of us who cherish the United Kingdom cannot be hoping for such an outcome.
Those of us who want to see our economy led out of recession and debt must be campaigning for a strong mandate for a Conservative and Unionist government. Not the indecision and grubby back-room deals of a hung parliament.
If we want to see change - real, meaningful change - in Northern Ireland and across the United Kingdom - it will only come through a Conservative and Unionist government. The change that will restore economic prosperity.
And that, by the way, does mean - must mean - growing Northern Ireland's private sector.
Over the weekend we saw just how worthless are the words spoken by the other political parties on growing the private sector. The other parties argue against us.
Because we have the audacity to suggest that Northern Ireland should not be left on the window ledge of the British economy. That we in this part of the United Kingdom should have the jobs and economic opportunity that come with a vibrant private sector.
I can't think of a better illustration to show how we must vote for change on 6th May.
The change that will put Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union.
The change that will deliver a government which is not neutral on the Union like Labour.
But passionately committed to our United Kingdom.
The change that will restore economic opportunity to all parts of the United Kingdom.
This is the change for which this Conservative and Unionist manifesto stands.
This is the change for which we - Conservatives and Unionists - stand.
So let's take this message right across Northern Ireland.
And take Northern Ireland into the heart of the Union.