THE Alliance Party launched its manifesto this morning at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast under the slogan ‘Alliance Works’
Party Leader David Ford stated:
“Our slogan – Alliance Works – is a simple one, but it is a more honest and effective one than other ‘simple’ slogans. Since we launched our first Assembly manifesto five years ago, Alliance has worked harder than any other party to ensure a cross-community voice of common sense is heard in the political storm of Stormont.
“In the Assembly, we had a small but effective team of MLAs and each has a record to be proud of. We continued the fight for free personal care for older people when the other parties betrayed them; we were prepared to ask the awkward questions that others tried to avoid; we provided the only effective opposition against the Executive; and we were prepared to take huge risks for peace and sacrificed much for the sake of stability.
“We accomplished much in office, and the Assembly has undoubtedly improved life in Northern Ireland. Yet things are still not as good as they could be, five years down the road. Unionism is hopelessly divided and unable to contemplate a return to devolution to bring about stability. Republicans have yet to join the rest of us on the path of fully democratic politics. Nationalists have yet to accept that they must take responsibility when others fail to live up to democratic standards.
“When the problem parties squabble, it is the public that loses out. Globalisation of the economy means jobs are going where labour is cheapest. The parties that were supposed to govern us have signally failed to recognise that stability is the best possible advertisement for Northern Ireland plc.
“The parties of the former Executive did not understand the importance of building a united community. We are not about calling for 2,000 jobs for Catholics alone, or seeking a fair deal just for Protestants. The relative lack of inward investment in the wake of the Agreement is testament to the failure of tribal politics. Global goodwill was merely an irritant to those who wanted to continue their war by other means.
“But – again – rather than address the problems of our divided society, the other parties chose to ignore them. The UUP and SDLP colluded to bury a groundbreaking report on community relations. Ironically, they couldn’t even agree on how to bring us together, with the result that problems were dismissed and brushed under the carpet?. until things like Holy Cross blew up in their face, and then it was too late.
“For a supposedly ‘new’ Northern Ireland competing in a global marketplace, it must have looked mighty close to the old one from anywhere else on the planet.
“This election should be about bread and butter issues; about the environment, public transport, jobs, community relations and the economy. But once again, it has become two campaigns of parallel politics, with unionists fighting amongst themselves and nationalists trying to out-green each other.
“Alliance is different. We want to restore trust, confidence and integrity to the political process. We are not looking over our shoulder at competing hardliners or tied to an outdated philosophy that cannot cope with the possibility of change.
“We want to see change. We are looking forward to the review, and we have already developed solid, workable proposals for it. We will not allow others to wreck the Agreement. We are going to make it more democratic, more accountable and more stable, through such things as working for an end to the tyranny of sectarian designations that has held this process to ransom.
“In the review we will also bring forward proposals that;
· end sectarian designations
· ensure power is shared more fairly
· make ministers accountable for their actions
· cut bureaucracy, and
· reduce the number of MLAs
“Our other policies on bread and butter issues are equally positive. I have already mentioned free personal care for the elderly. In any other democracy, when parties do a complete U-turn on a policy and vote against something they pledged to introduce, it would be a political scandal. Yet in Northern Ireland, there was barely a cheep of criticism in the media when other parties included it in their manifesto.
“We will also work to get rid of student tuition fees. Many young people, particularly those from low income backgrounds, are being priced out of higher education and are deterred from studying subjects such as medicine and architecture due to the length of the course. Alliance is sticking by students; we want tuition fees to go and top-up fees must not be introduced. Unfortunately, when the SDLP had the chance to abolish tuition fees, they failed to do so.
“The economy is something else that has been skirted around in election debates. Alliance will tackle the problems of unfair taxation and reform the local rating system. We want to abolish the regional rate, and replace it with a method based on ability to pay. We will lobby the UK Government for tax-varying powers. This will give the Assembly a greater ability to reflect the democratic wishes of local people and to have the capability to offer tax incentives to stimulate local economic growth.
“These are just a few of the policies Alliance are putting to the electorate. I believe they are the best of any party in Northern Ireland, and I would urge you to read them carefully. They are designed to benefit the entire community, not just one section. They are honest, practical and have the potential to take Northern Ireland forward to a better, brighter future.”
You can read the manifesto by surfing to: http://www.allianceparty.org/manifestos.asp