Manifestos: the Ulster Unionist Party
One of the most telling indictments of politics in Northern Ireland is that the party manifestos only started to trickle out this week just a few days before we go to the polls.
Given that canvassing is already well underway and that the manifestos spell out just how parties would govern if elected that’s poor. It means people do not get the opportunity to question candidates on detail of policy, and as none quantify the costs of what they are proposing it renders discussions meaningless.
Over the next two weeks we will analyse all party manifestos summarising key issues that each party is pursuing. In this piece we examine the Ulster Unionist Party who, in fairness, published their policy paper much earlier than most.
The manifesto runs to 37 pages and is entitled Build a better Northern Ireland - which it bills as “a confident, positive, pro-union alternative that will work for everyone.”
It leads very strongly on health and leans heavily on Robin Swann’s credibility after what has been universally regarded as an impressive term in office during the most difficult period imaginable, the Covid-19 pandemic.
Policy priorities are spelled out for the next mandate.
They include “much greater utilisation of (operating) theatre capacity by working longer into the evenings and weekends, supporting and properly incentivising the move towards a genuine seven day a week health service, and delivering services at scale through the increased rollout of mega multi-disciplinary clinics wherever possible.”
The following is especially worthy of note at a time where others have undermined efficiency drives. “If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that there is unquestionably a willingness from both patients and clinicians to travel longer distances if it means receiving care and support in a more timely manner. It is essential that the opportunities currently before us are not lost.”
There’s also an emphasis on prevention. The earlier mental health interventions are made the more effective they are known to be for individuals and families. So, the Ulster Unionist Party wants to see teaching the importance of good mental health and emphasising the signs of when to ask for help to become an integral component of the school curriculum.”
Then there are two substantive area for reform: “We want to see a single mental health Trust for Northern Ireland – one which would immediately scrap the all the problems of trust boundaries and the postcode lottery of service provision.”
And there is a proposal to transfer the day to day running of the health service should be transferred to a newly created role of a Northern Ireland HSC Chief Executive, supported by a senior management team and accountable to a Board with political, professional and civic society membership.”
The idea of giving the CEO operational independence “would closely mirror the arrangements for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.”
The UUP, in common with other unionist parties, opposes the protocol but accepts the need for “common sense alternative” one would be to create a new criminal offence to knowingly export goods designed for the UK Internal Market into the EU Single Market.
Economically the party wants to see Northern Ireland as a hub for green technology “world-leaders in wind power, hydrogen, electric vehicles, green ships and other technologies.”
There’s a pledge to secure Workers’ Rights as well:
“We believe that access to good jobs, where workers have a voice, a decent income, security of tenure, satisfying work in the right quantities and decent working conditions should be integral to public policy given how this contributes to better health and wellbeing by tackling inequalities, building self-efficacy and combating poverty.“
Another key priority is to mutualise NI Water, to reverse chronic underinvestment whereby 130 out of 271 large wastewater treatment works that serve 90 per cent of the population are either at or approaching full capacity, thus leading to over seven million tonnes of raw sewage being dumped in waterways and curtailing house building programmes.
Climate Change is addressed. There’s a commitment to develop Hydrogen as a fuel potentially to replace methane for home heating. And the manifesto has this to say about farmers. (We will) “invest in science, technology, knowledge transfer and training, to give farmers the tools to become more efficient and sustainable and to support the unique family farm structure in Northern Ireland.”
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