Manifestos: the Green Party of Northern Ireland

29 Apr 2022 Ryan Miller    Last updated: 29 Apr 2022

Scope’s look at party manifestos ahead of the Assembly election on May 5 continues.

 

The Green party’s manifesto is very green. That’s not a surprise.

However, the Greens are of course a proper political party with a full suite of policies and their own ideas about how to improve society and what government can achieve.

The index of their manifesto mentions health, education, justice, equality, arts and culture, and democracy before it gets on to their proposed Green New Deal and how this should shape the economy, our energy strategy, infrastructure and so on.

Don’t let that mislead you, however. The environment is their top priority and a desire to green the future is woven throughout their entire vision. Immediately following the index is a tubthumping foreword from party leader Clare Bailey which begins:

“We are in Code Red for Humanity. The very cultural and economic systems we have created to live by are threatening to wipe us out. Traditional politics continues its pursuit of rampant neo-liberal economics and consumerism, failing to engage with the urgent transition we need.”

The manifesto is full of bullet-point commitments. Costings for those commitments are more or less absent.

Most real-life policies come with a non-zero price and you could argue that an uncosted manifesto is just a list of dreams and warm feelings. However, a manifesto is not the same thing as an actual departmental strategy or even a Programme for Government. Expecting the same level of detail is unrealistic. Lots of manifestos are left uncosted (including, more or less, everyone else’s in this election).

Enough about what the document doesn’t say – what do the Greens actually propose?

Policies

In healthcare, the party wants to reduce waiting lists, resist any attempts to cut frontline services, and “work with the healthcare sector at all levels to identify priority reforms & resources.”

The document doesn’t mention Bengoa, or Transforming Your Care, so it’s unclear whether this represents a full commitment to the planned upheaval of Health and Social Care. However, there is criticism for “the Executive’s failure to properly reform our health service” that has let “health service reform strategies gather dust.”

Other notable health policies include greater support for preventative measures like health education in schools, more PE for kids, and better walking and cycling routes (all of which is very much in line with Bengoa), treating addiction as a health issue, and support for dignity in dying.

Their proposed changes for education are forthright: end academic selection, make integration available for everyone (note this is not necessarily the same thing as making all schools integrated), support for Irish-medium education within the integrated sector, and raise the school starting age to six “in line with other European countries”.

They also want to see extra things on school curricula, including “mandatory, comprehensive and inclusive Relationships and Sexuality Education” and stand-alone lessons in Critical Thinking Skills and Information Literacy that are relevant to the digital age and can help “combat the rise in misinformation”.

Their plans for justice, equality and democracy are probably no shock to anyone – with more focus on crime prevention and a strong opposition to any Troubles amnesty, expanded rights and protections for LGBT people, and more transparency with political donations.

They recognise the importance of the arts to NI both culturally and economically, and want to support the arts more broadly – including an interesting idea around art contract clauses which they say would be “similar to ‘community benefit clauses’ for multi-million pound film and screen projects, to ensure that money and investment finds its way to the grassroots arts scene.”

Green New Deal

What about this Green New Deal?

“The transition to net-zero will unlock opportunities for everyone across Northern Ireland. A Just Transition will require the transformation of our economy to build a fairer society.

“It’s time to invest in high-quality jobs, housing and public services.”

At the highest level, trying to turn climate action into opportunity, wherever possible, makes perfect sense. But the success of such aims lives and dies on the detail.

As well as a lot of specifically environment policies – established of an independent Environmental Protection Agency, planting trees, banning certain herbicides, and so on – the party is keen to boost both workers’ rights and the benefits system, while acknowledging the potentially rapid economic changes to come:

“It’s time to guarantee protections for workers whose industries are set to change in response to the climate crisis.”

It’s not all about boosting rights, though – they also want to increase “funding for proper skills training and paid apprenticeships across industries” as well as creating apprenticeship targets, making the work day more flexible, and improving childcare.

They also support the introduction of basic income for children leaving care, paid for by lifting the rates cap.

Other promises include more (and more affordable) housing, rent controls, more electric vehicles, and a major bundle of carrot-and-stick policies to try and transform farming into something more sustainable.

Those policies include “farm payment criteria which incentivise small farmers, environmental protection, emission reductions, and animal welfare”, encouragement for farmers to produce a broader range of products to protect supply lines, and development of a strategy to phase out factory farming “using an animal rights based approach.”

The Green Party manifesto is available here.

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