I am taking a stand for the possibility of a new positive and participatory approach to politics. I want more ‘new’ people (especially young people and women) to get actively involved in politics.
I believe that politics in Northern Ireland needs VISION.
The same old, same old, negative politics of division, attack and blame continues to fail us. In a time of economic crisis, we cannot afford NOT to change.
Politicians need to demonstrate and promote a ‘can do’ attitude.
Here are just a few initiatives I believe we can do:
We can support the transformation of our private sector to increase employment and living standards across Northern Ireland. We can work with the government to make Northern Ireland an Enterprise Zone with incentives such as rate relief in zoned manufacturing areas, tax reductions on reinvestment of profits and networks to develop capacity to secure borrowing for start-up capital or project expansions.
We can fulfil our tourism potential. Tourism has already been a success story in recent years with considerable growth in the area. However, tourism contributes only 1.9% to the Northern Ireland economy, compared to the UK average of 3.2% and 3.3% in the Republic of Ireland. The North Coast, where I live, is an area of outstanding natural beauty with enormous potential for tourism development. Tourism is the biggest industry in the East Londonderry constituency and with the right ambition and entrepreneurship we can transform one of the most beautiful places in the world into a world-class tourist destination, that creates more jobs for local people.
We can improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable people and disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland. We have an excellent voluntary and community sector that makes a huge difference in peoples’ lives. I have worked with hundreds of community/voluntary groups throughout Northern Ireland for the past 25 years. It is the work of volunteers that often holds our communities together. The Executive can develop a much stronger working relationship with the voluntary and community sector on a whole range of issues.
We can offer our young people hope for the future. We can give all of our children the best education and training to prepare them for the work place. For example, we can introduce a cross-departmental Early Years Strategy, with a centralized Executive fund, to tackle problems of health, education, youth justice and regeneration.
We can create a truly shared future and a genuinely pluralist society, at ease with itself, which then attracts investment. We can move beyond the failed, ‘separate but equal’ aspirations of the current draft CSI policy and rewrite an ambitious CSI strategy with a detailed action plan for change.
We can make all of these things happen. The only thing stopping us is a lack of vision.
I believe that with vision and a new ‘can do’ culture we can create a vibrant and successful Northern Ireland PLC.