PETER Robinson and Mike Nesbitt are to hold the first meeting of the Unionist Forum on Thursday, January 9.
It follows talks on Monday between the leaders of the DUP and UUP to formalise arrangements for the groups’s first meeting.
The idea for the Unionist Forum was born out of discussions the two leaders had last year with UDA south Belfast brigadier Jackie McDonald after trouble erupted following Union flag protests in Belfast.
There had been calls for a unionist forum to hear the feelings of grass root unionistS and working class Protestants over issues affecting their communities.
Community leaders in loyalist areas said people felt “disenfranchised” from the peace process and that their Britishness was under threat after Belfast City Council voted by 29-21 to only fly the Union flag on 17 designated days.
In a joint statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, the leaders said: “Following our discussion yesterday (Monday) morning we are able to confirm that the first meeting of the Unionist Forum will take place on Thursday morning, in Parliament Buildings, Stormont at 9.30am.
“As indicated when we initially announced the creation of the Forum, its purpose will be to seek to engage with the entire unionist community and to address issues of concern.
“It will seek to channel unionist efforts through political means. While participants attending the initial meeting will be limited, working groups may be established to provide a more extensive reach across the wider unionist community.
“The forum will be a body through which unionists can meet to consider matters of interest and concern to the unionist community.
“All participants should share the core values of support for the maintenance of the Union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means, non-sectarianism, commitment to a shared future and commitment to the successful operation of devolution in Northern Ireland.”