SDLP leader welcomes new convention of Stormont

Sat, 11/01/2020 - 02:09 -- Editor

The SDLP has welcomed the renewed establishment of Stormont, but is aware of the shortcomings of the compromise arrangement.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP said: “People in Northern Ireland have been without a government for over three years. The deal reached over the last 24 hours could have been done at any stage in that time, preventing hospital waiting lists spiralling out of control, a crisis in mental health, schools facing massive budgetary pressures and families threatened with savage welfare cuts. So this is not a day for celebration.

“Our honest assessment is that the New Deal, New Approach document has gaps. It does not secure the comprehensive resolution to institutional issues that we sought. It does however meet the SDLP priority asks on welfare protection for low income and disabled families, the expansion of Magee, an increase in the provision of free childcare, a step change in new build social and affordable housing as well as robust action on climate change, significant investment in health and in our schools.

“The reality is that we are in the middle of a health and mental health crisis. People are dying and we could do something to help. Our schools are facing a financial crisis that will jeopardise the quality of education that we could offer our young people. And we could do something about it. Vulnerable families are being threatened with savage welfare cuts. And we could do something about it. So the SDLP is choosing to do something about it.

“A return to the façade of government is not enough in and of itself. This must be a new kind of government that delivers not in the narrow interests of two parties but in the interests of all people in Northern Ireland. We have had meetings with parties and with both governments today to set out tough financial asks on the SDLP priorities in a Programme for government. We expect those projects – the expansion of Magee, welfare protections for low income families,  a step change in social and affordable housing new builds, free childcare, a Mental Health Action Plan and more – to be honoured and prioritised.

“We will stretch ourselves in the best interests of people here who need a government that delivers for them. But the public can trust the SDLP to be honest with them, as we always have been, about this new Executive and how it delivers. We are going into this in the genuine belief that parties can change and government can change the lives of people for the better. That requires a fundemental change in the mindset of government and we are determined to drive it forward."