Sinn Fein Assembly manifesto for 2016
Sinn Fein’s election manifesto was released this Wednesday, eight days before Northern Ireland goes to the polls.
Cutting it close, yes, but the real question is whether it was worth waiting for.
The party has taken a lighter approach than other parties. Alliance’s manifesto, for example, reached an epic 80 pages but Sinn Fein’s is a streamlined 24 – and you can cut that in half because the whole document is bilingual.
Martin McGuinness’ introduction talks up how Northern Ireland and partition “has failed us all” and how the party’s priority remains a unified Irish state, built on progressive principles, with a couple of mentions of Tory austerity.
The spine of the manifesto is a 10-point programme – some of which has already been agreed by the Executive. Critics might suggest this is a flimsy look at policies that are already in train; supporters could argue it is a mature document that highlights achievable goals.
The summary of promises outlined is succinct and we can replicate it here in full:
1. Economy - 50,000 new jobs
2. Housing - 10.000 new social and affordable homes
3. Health – £1 billion additional health spending
4. Welfare – £500 million to help those in need
5. Education – Increase to £525 million spend on Childcare and Early Child Development Initiatives
6. Infrastructure – £6 billion to improve roads, transport and public services
7. Rural - Extend fast-speed broadband to rural communities
8. Tackling Crime – ring-fence funding for front line policing
9. Equality – promote equality measures for all people and all communities.
10. Building the momentum towards Irish Unity
This is followed by a much more detailed look at what Sinn Fein says are its governmental achievements over the past five years, with sections on the Executive generally and also each of the departments with a Sinn Fein minister – OFMdFM; Education; Culture, Arts and Leisure; Agriculture and Rural Development.
Priorities in government
As well as their ten points, the party puts forward 18 areas where they want to make a difference in Northern Ireland in the coming parliament. These include:
Building the Momentum Towards Irish Unity – talking up both cooperation and integration on services, as well as national reunification.
Executive Office – promote jobs and equality, tackle disadvantage, and try to create a more inclusive democracy, mentioning measures such as a pensioners’ forum and youth parliament.
Health – an extra £1bn spending, reduce problems between commissioners and providers, involve clinicians in strategic decisions, increase GP intake, and improve the care system – including protection for whistleblowers.
Education – increase early care and development initiatives, skew provision towards more disadvantaged children, ensure provision is age appropriate, and encourage Irish-medium, integrated and shared education.
Finance – increased fiscal powers, remove the cap on domestic properties valued above £400,000, place a time-limit on rates relief on empty commercial properties, introduce a tax on derelict land, and maintain relief for small businesses.
Economy – create 50,000 new jobs, deliver a “harmonised corporation tax by 2018”, address sub-regional inequalities in investment in job creation, make the public sector a Living Wage employer, and ensure universities are funded to deliver skills appropriate for the economy.
Infrastructure – invest £6bn in roads and transport, invest in the schools estates and hospitals infrastructure, complete the Belfast Rapid Transport System, invest in telecommunications and broadband, work with Dublin towards the Narrow Water Bridge.
Communities – develop and anti-poverty strategy based on need, £500m to mitigate against welfare cuts, build a minimum of 10,000 social or affordable homes over the next five years, strengthen disability legislation and deliver gender and sexual orientation equality strategies.
Agriculture, environment and rural affairs – champion fairness in the supply chain for farmers, advance an all-island food labelling system, support a climate change bill, extend high-speed broadband to rural areas, oppose fracking.
Irish language – support an Irish-language strategy, grow the Irish-medium education sector, roll out the Líofa, develop the Gaeltacht Quarter and a rural Gaeltacht, and support the Gael Acadamh.
Older people – implement the Active Ageing Strategy, support an adult safeguarding bill, implement Older People’s Commissioner recommendations on culture within care provision, introduce a regulatory framework for domiciliary care, finance Transforming Your Care.
Children and young people – provide an extra £85m for childcare and child development, support an early care and child development bill to “give clear focus and direction to delivering age and stage appropriate provision”, deliver and implement a children and young people’s strategy, promote vocational learning, support age-appropriate mental health services.
Policing and justice – challenge systematic delays in PSNI disclosure, ring-fence funding for frontline policing, promote “representativeness” within the PSNI, support the role of community restorative justice organisations, protect the legal aid budget.
Legacy – ensure maximum disclosure in legacy investigations, challenge UK vetoes on disclosure, enhance the coronial system, demand Westminster funds inquests, ensure the post-conflict needs of women are met.
Reconciliation – engage with everyone to shape an inclusive process, deal with sectarianism and “entrenched community segregation”, provide support for ex-prisoners.
Ireland in Europe – campaign against Brexit, resist the dilution of national sovereignty, campaign for better EU democracy, prioritise all-Ireland cooperation in all fields, oppose TTIP.
Equality – promote equality for all, and support equality on the bases of gender and sexual orientation.
Human rights – resist the repeal of the Human Rights Act, promote a Bill of Rights, demand maximum disclosure in legacy investigations, marriage equality for all citizens, “human rights compliant legislation in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and sexual crime” (without mentioning the word abortion).
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