Northern Ireland Politics 2017 – UKIP Conference Speech 30/09/17
Two major issues dominant Northern Ireland politics this year; the Devolved Northern Ireland Assembly deadlock and the discussions relating to the Brexit Border between the UK and Ireland.
Since the election on the 7th March this year the NI Assembly has met for 46 mins and to date it has cost the taxpayer, yes that’s you and I, £6 million to cover MLAs’ salaries and expenses. No provision has been made for an non-operative Assembly. In fact this week the Independent Financial Review Panel determined that they should receive an additional £500 now and a similar increase in 6 months time. Money well spent I hear you cry. If we had the equivalent in my Nottinghamshire County, NI would be governed by 80 County Councillors on approx £20k including expenses.
Meanwhile, there are cuts in care packages, waiting lists for hospital appointments are getting longer and Mental Health funding is curtailed. Road safety has always been a major issue in NI. Did you know that more people were killed due to road accidents than during the horrific unrest during the Troubles?
Excessive speed on rural roads, an investment in road expansions is urgently needed and potholes abound. A common phrase you can hear is; We used to drive on the left of the road. Now we drive on what is left of the road.
Over 25% are employed in the public sector, the highest region throughout the UK and young people not in Education, Employment or Training sits at approx. 20%. Job losses are announced far too frequently and this week the manufacturing sector in East Belfast has been dealt a significant blow.
The names of the Parties may be different but many people vote not for a party, but to ensure that the “other side” don’t get elected. It’s politics of fear and in the NI case it’s largely down to tribal voting patterns on constitutional matters. That’s why I joined UKIP in NI. It offered a non-sectarian Unionist alternative with a UK National party who believe that Direct Democracy through Referendums should resolve issues when politicians cannot agree.
The latest stumbling block preventing a return to the Assembly is the demand from Sein Fein for a standalone Irish Language Act.
The Irish language received official recognition and funding under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and for 20 years in Government SF seemed content to channel their efforts through the Irish medium education sector. There certainly hasn’t been desire to legislate for a bilingual public sector with preferential recruitment of Irish speakers. According to the 2011 census, only 4,045 people claimed Irish as their main language.
Language should threaten no one – however when language is used as a cultural weapon by political republicanism it clearly becomes a threat to British identity. Stormont has invested £171m in the past five years to promote the Irish language. However, SF has driven more people away from ever cultivating a genuine interest in the Irish language than any of these publicly funded incentives can ever hope to attract. Any legislation, no matter what it’s called or how its packaged, which underpins the Irish language in a legal framework will have massive implications for local government, the courts, the civil service, schools and everyday life in Northern Ireland. Legislative intervention will be used as an employment driver for Irish speakers and will open-up the potential for endless legal challenges on a range of related issues.
The parochial Unionist Parties wish to promote Ulster Scots and Nationalists advocate the Irish language. Maybe it’s time to discover the common language spoken throughout the North of Ireland for centuries, Ulster Gaelic. NI politicians should be focussing on that which should unite society – the need to tackle waiting-lists, the crisis in school budgets, and the need to create new and better jobs
On 23rd June 2016 the electorate in the United Kingdom of GB and NI voted to leave the EU together. We are united on this matter. No ifs, No buts, No fudge. Leave means Leave. Northern Ireland is not for sale to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union as proposed by the EU. This crazy idea breaches the Belfast Agreement. Northern Ireland is British. Carving up the UK is not on the agenda, not an inch.
Relations between Ireland and the UK have never been better. Ties of language, family, free trade and free travel bind us together. We regard the Irish as our “Kith and Kin”. All of these ties precede the formation of the EU. Irish farmers and small businesses export €1 billion with the UK every week. So you can see that it’s mutually beneficial for this situation to continue. Following the 2009-12 boom and bust in Ireland’s economy it was the UK who rose to the occasion with an offer of an interest free loan. The EU’s response, a € 64 billion Franco – German bank debt imposed on the Irish taxpayer.
100 years on from Ireland’s Independence we voted to regain our Independence because we want to make our own laws, spend our own money, act in our interest and determine our own destiny. With Brexit, Ireland has an even greater financial incentive to leave the EU and agree a free trade agreement with the UK. What we are witnessing is the EU’s provocation by interfering in our good relations, fanning the flames of political violence over the Border issue. A recent EU commission ruling on Ireland’s corporation taxation rate has also come as a shock leaving multi-nationals watching Apple Computer’s appeal very closely on the billions the EU says it owes the Irish Government. But we all know that the EU isn’t about freedom, it’s about enslavement of nations and peoples. You cannot be a sovereign, independent self-governing country while being a member of the EU. To paraphrase Patrick Pearce, “Ireland unfree from the EU shall never be at peace”. Is it now time for the people of Ireland to demand a Referendum to determine whether they want to remain a member of the political EU or be granted Special Status within the EU? Let’s hope commonsense prevails and that our good relationship will continue to flourish and maybe the people of Ireland will join us one day as members of the Commonwealth.
Stephen Crosby (UKIP Mansfield Chairman)
Stephen moved from Northern Ireland three years ago and now lives and works in the East Midlands. He may be contacted at email@example.com
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