The forthcoming election must be about making Northern Ireland work.
The budget that Sinn Fein and the DUP are proposing will put the North on the dole. Over 9000 public service jobs will go with many more lost in the private sector. Over 100 school builds will not proceed and hospital waiting lists will get longer if we don’t start taking devolved government seriously and start making decisions that benefit the many rather then the few.
7400 low paid civil servants who get paid less then the average industrial wage will have their pay frozen and tens of thousands of students could face fees of up to £5750.
We had seventy years of bad government in this region. It gave us political policing and gerrymandering. The last thing we need now is slush fund politics and more cronyism.
The next Assembly needs more balance. A stronger SDLP team will bring solutions to water and education and a new politics to Stormont.
We want to create a people’s water company to make the necessary investments in out water and sewage infrastructure. A mutual company which puts customers first.
In government we will work hard to break the stalemate in education. We won’t let outdated ideology get in the way of what is best for our children. Guided by international best practice we have made proposals which will ensure no child ever has to sit a transfer test and eleven whilst also guaranteeing that educational excellence remains at the heart of all our schools.
Through practical cooperation across Ireland we can save millions for both jurisdictions. Money that can be invested in schools, hospitals and our transport infrastructure. That’s why we want a better budget for the North. One which includes new revenue from local sources to plug the gap left by Tory Cuts. A strong SDLP would challenge Sinn Fein and the DUP’s surrender policy to the UK Treasury.
Northern Ireland can remain divided and forever a failure or as a region we can make the positive decision to work together in the common interest.
My nationalism is in no way diluted by a commitment to making the North work, nor should anyone else’s unionism. Those of us who are serious about Irish Unity need to explore honestly what that means. You can’t unite Ireland by continuing to divide the North. That’s why the time has come for a generation of nationalist politicians to step forward and make our region work. I want to be part of that movement.