Conference Motion 2006:
Proposer: Tom Ekin
Seconder: Ian Parsley
Motion 4: Northern Ireland’s Economy
Each year £1 billion is wasted in the provision of segregated public services.
Northern Ireland is dependent upon the public sector in terms of direct and indirect employment, low manufacturing output and high reliance upon the retail sector. Such a dependency creates an economic distortion.
Economic development is crucial to the realisation of greater integration and appreciation of our society’s diversity.
Conference calls for rates relief, streamlined planning and lower tax rates, to encourage start-ups and investment to re-balance Northern Ireland’s economy to the private sector.
Conference calls upon Government and the local party leaders for an all-party Economic Forum to be established in order to allow discussion on the economic future of Northern Ireland.
Proposer Tom Ekin stated:
“In recent speeches, the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, has challenged local politicians and Northern Ireland’s people on the Northern Ireland economy. We in Alliance are ready to meet that challenge.
“To be brutally honest, our economy is a mess. Economic vision is blind, its hearing almost totally deaf and its heart beat is almost failing.
“Yes, we are part of the vibrant UK economy, home to the most vibrant franchises for BMW cars, we have top scale schools and universities and a very good health service.
“Yes tourism is growing and the Waterfront Hall was No. 2 conference centre in the world and immigration is increasing. But yet, businesses still close, undergraduates go away and graduates appear to stay away.
“Our standards of education and training fall, and education and health boards continue to be drains on our money while our GDP is 20% less than the UK average.
“Our school population is declining and half our schools remain empty and yet there exists arguments over the 11+, which hospitals should be placed where and planning takes years.
“Throughout all of this, and exacerbating to this issue is the calcification of politics and poor leadership.
“Why do those leaders of the bigger parties, Adams and Paisley, seem to be able to run their own financial empires successfully but appear unable to demonstrate the leadership, vision and courage to apply those to the economy of Northern Ireland?
“Are they so wedded to handouts, political donations, religious donations, multiple public salaries and the dictums “ourselves alone” and “not an inch” that they are happy to drag us down and hoping for someone else to bail us out?
“The bailing out is stopping. We have had our chance of the snout in the trough, it will not continue – it cannot continue. Something must be done now. Indeed now is too late. Poverty in Northern Ireland is rife, families are struggling to make ends meet and soaring rates of personal debt cause disruption to such people.
“We have been repeatedly told our economy is inadequate, we must change, we have to train our bright people better, we must reduce the number of people within the public sector and above all we must have the determination to improve ourselves, by ourselves and for ourselves. Yet those trying to establish business, or invest in Northern Ireland are hindered rather than helped. The Government repeatedly hikes up business rates and seizes the best talent for the public sector.
“Conference therefore calls upon the Government and the local party leaders to urgently set a visionary proactive and targeted economic programme to move the economy of Northern Ireland from one of stagnation, inefficiency and wastage to one of dynamism, effectiveness and re-balance.
“The first steps are for government and all party leaders to recognise the need for change, and then the establishment of round table meetings to establish what must be done, by whom and by when.”