‘Alliance keeps on working’

Launching Alliance’s pre-manifesto document, the Party Leader, David Ford, said: “The political process may be grinding to a halt, but Alliance keeps on working. This document summarises the themes that Alliance sees as important for the Government of Northern Ireland.

Mr Ford stated: “Today, we should have been taking stock, with the new Alliance Assembly Group meeting for the first time to consider the next four year term. Instead, the postponement of the election has thrown Northern Ireland into political limbo.

“There is very little activity from the two Governments. They seem to be battening down the hatches for the summer. They do not seem to have any ideas, let alone plans, as to how we can proceed from here. In fact, they are still trying to deal with the fallout from the cancellation of the elections.

“Meanwhile, most local parties show no more urgency to tackle the crisis. The Nationalist parties are continuing to complain about the cancellation of the elections. The Ulster Unionists seem intent on a further round of self-inflicted wounds.

“It is hardly surprising that the people of Northern Ireland are switching off from what passes for local politics.

“At one level, there is a very real disillusionment that, five years on from the Agreement, politicians are still bickering over its implementation, and that a number of parties have failed to meet their obligations.

“At another level, devolution has not delivered sufficiently for people to warm to it. The opportunities that were presented to the Executive were squandered. Devolution has not yet begun to make a real difference to most people’s lives.

“A strong and vibrant democracy cannot function on the basis of quick fixes. It needs a strong political and civic culture of trust, responsibility and participation. All parties, and both Governments, share the responsibility of building this culture.

“As a result of the current impasse, local people will have much less influence over issues that affect their every day lives. Decisions have already been taken at Westminster on planning laws and energy prices. Others will have to be taken in the near future on water charges, the appointment of the Children’s Commissioner, reform of the 11-plus by Direct Rule Ministers.

“My message today is that the political process may be broken, but Alliance Keeps on Working.

“Today, we are publishing a pre-Manifesto, which we will be circulating widely. This document sets out a sample of some of the policies that we would have published in our full manifesto if there had been an election. We will be continuing to develop these policies.

“Better community relations lies at the heart of the Alliance policy agenda. Our deep divisions remain the biggest problem facing Northern Ireland, yet the devolved administration sadly neglected the improvement of community relations.

“Alliance will continue to lobby NIO Ministers to take the right decisions for the people of Northern Ireland. But the Governments need to respond to this by moving quickly to establish a meaningful, inclusive and comprehensive process to review the Agreement, in line with the provisions of the Agreement.”

Top 10 Priorities

1. Alliance will place a duty on all Government agencies to promote community relations.

2. Alliance will amend Government regulations on monitoring, to stop people being assigned as either ‘Protestant’ or ‘Catholic’ against their will.

3. Alliance will lobby the Government for tax-varying powers, to be able to offer tax incentives for economic growth.

4. Alliance will reduce electricity charges to consumers, by ensuring a provision to buy out generating capacity.

5. Alliance will lobby for the introduction of Hate Crime Laws in Northern Ireland.

6. Alliance will implement a strategy to have 10% of our children educated in integrated schools by 2010.

7. Alliance will abolish tuition fees for Northern Ireland universities.

8. Alliance will introduce free personal care for those living in residential and nursing homes.

9. Alliance will give District Councils the ability to initiate third-party planning appeals.

10. Alliance will increase the proportion of funding for public transport.

See the full document at http://www.allianceparty.org/showmanifesto.asp?id=4

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