Manifestos: the DUP

3 May 2022 Nick Garbutt    Last updated: 3 May 2022

The final piece in our series analysing party manifestos looks at the DUP.

Stretching to 60 pages the DUP’s manifesto is entitled: Our 5 point plan for Northern Ireland Real Action on the issues that matter to you.

Unfortunately it doesn’t answer the one question which will be troubling most of the electorate: whether there will be “real action” on such issues with a Sinn Fein First Minister. Nor does the DUP spell out what further sanctions we can expect if it doesn’t get its way on the protocol.

All of this makes its assertion that “Your vote will decide whether Northern Ireland’s future is one focused on fixing our health system, tackling the cost of living crisis and replacing the Protocol or focused on a divisive Border Poll.” open to debate.

The DUP’s five point plan is to: “Fix the NHS; Grow the economy; Keep our schools world class; Help working families; Remove the protocol.

But before we get to them the document plunges into a five page list of the party’s achievements in power. This is bold, even brave given that the last mandate was most remarkable for the length of time we were left with no government at all.

But once we get into proposed policy, it all gets much more interesting. The health section especially so. The commitment to full implementation of Rafael Bengoa’s Systems not Structures report is hardly a surprise. But the manifesto shows the party to have an appetite for innovation.

Thus there is a call for “Maximising the opportunities offered from healthcare data in predictive analytics, research and the evolution of personalised medicine.”

And this is matched by a stated enthusiasm for technologically led change: “Maximising the benefits from technology, data and artificial intelligence, and through the opportunities offered in life sciences and genomics.”

There is also a recognition of the importance of developing more flexible roles and ways of working. The DUP envisages “a gradual reduction in the boundaries between professions with the expansion of new roles such as physician associate and community paramedic.”

It also concedes that general practice isn’t working and desperately needs to be fixed.

“Patients aren’t being assessed in a timely manner, the workload is continually expanding and there aren’t sufficient staff to run the service optimally.

“Technology needs to be embraced and better utilised. The morning rush to obtain an appointment by phoning the practice is utterly unacceptable for a modern service, and new ways need to be provided. This will include the ability to seek assistance and obtain an appointment online via your mobile phone.”

The plan for growing the economy display a similar appetite for growing high-tech areas. The party wants to see new jobs in AgriTech, Life and Health Sciences and Advanced Manufacturing as well as the creation of 5,000 “new tech” jobs.

Thus whilst where we were once “internationally renowned for our shipbuilding, rope works and linen industry, today we are global leaders in cyber security, advanced manufacturing and fintech.

Belfast is one of the top tech cities in Europe and Northern Ireland is the top location in the UK, outside of London, for foreign direct investment. “

A key element of this will be investment in hydrogen as part of a plan to establish Northern Ireland as a “global leader in clean energy.”

In response to the cost of living crisis the DUP supports calls for a Windfall Tax on energy firms.

And going forward the party accepts that there are many who are keen to adopt a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. But it acknowledges “the reality of cost is often a barrier. We believe that if we are to make the green transition then we must ensure it is affordable and provides value for money. This should include financial support for small-scale energy generation for householders, for example solar panels and heat installation measures across the home.”

The same goes for farming whose importance to the economy is recognised. “ With 25,900 active farm businesses in Northern Ireland, employing roughly 51,000 people, primary agriculture is a catalyst for household prosperity and economic growth across Northern Ireland. The DUP wants to ensure our farmers are profitable, productive and sustainable in the future. We will continue to drive forward policy that encourages food production, delivers for the environment and provides new and exciting export opportunities for local farms.”

The manifesto is once again uncosted. That said it contains some interesting ideas. But whether they will ever see the light of day is an entirely different matter.

But as the manifesto itself says albeit in the context of the Protocol: “Why should anyone seeking election to the Assembly want to deny themselves the right to have a say or a vote on vast swathes of the laws governing our economy and which affect the people of Northern Ireland so directly?

Quite.

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