DUP leader Peter Robinson has told his party's annual conference in Co Down that the fallout of failure is conflict and he re-committed his party to power-sharing.
Mr Robinson said there can be no distinction between violence by loyalists and violence by dissident republicans
Mr Robinson told delegates that unionism is at its best when it is open and inviting, not narrow and exclusive.
He described the DUP as the only party capable of leading unionism forward, adding that in the decades ahead, the direction of Northern Ireland will "be determined not on the basis of the labels of the past, but what will provide the very best future for its citizens".
In reference to the Union Flag dispute and the tensions that erupted afterwards, he said one of the greatest tragedies over this past year is how legitimate protests descended into violence and economic destruction.
Mr Robinson said most unionists were appalled by the flags decision in Belfast but they were also disgusted by the attacks on the police.
In remarks that are thought to have been aimed at loyalist paramilitaries he said: "Those who deal in drugs deal in death. Those who agitate and organise unrest and disorder for the political advantage are a scourge on our society - blighting the lives and prospects of young people."
Referring to the controversial speech by Northern Ireland's Attorney General this week, Mr Robinson said: "I don't know whether we will ever be able to agree a way forward on the past but surely we can at least agree that people must not be re-traumatised in the future.
"We are absolutely clear that no one will be allowed to rewrite history.”