Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Bread and butter diet for Northern Ireland politicians at Tory conference

Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew
Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew

Bread-and-butter issues dominated over flags and parades as Northern Ireland politicians addressed the Conservative Party conference.

During the fringe meeting in Manchester, DUP MEP Diane Dodds, UUP MLA Danny Kinahan and Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew discussed the main problems facing the region.

While the recent turbulent parading season and the prospects of the current Haass talks were raised, they were overtaken by issues such as the economy and fracking and how those topics play a role in the future of Northern Ireland. DUP MEP Mrs Dodds (right) told the Belfast Telegraph: "Flags and parades were a part of it.

"But the Irish Ambassador to the UK was there and he got up and said: 'Isn't it great to be at a Northern Ireland breakfast and be talking about the economy, banking, fracking, all of the broader issues that we would talk about in any other region of the United Kingdom."

The economy was a key player in the conference and it played a pivotal role in the speech by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

"I firmly believe that it's the economy which remains the number one priority for many people in Northern Ireland and it's clear that Northern Ireland will never reach its full economic potential when sectarian division keeps fuelling street violence and the kind of disgraceful attacks on police officers we've seen this year," Ms Villiers said.

Among the topics discussed were banking and the role that the economy plays in creating a stable society.

It is understood that talks also included the recent Belfast Telegraph poll.

At one point there was a heated debate between Mrs Dodds and Ms Gildernew over fracking.

It came after the MEP was speaking about the extension of the gas pipe-line to the west, which she says will help with household fuel bills and employment.

She said: "I didn't mean fracking in any sense. I was talking about the extension of the gas pipeline to the west and Michelle Gildernew was very sceptical about that, and then went on to discuss fracking.

"We don't hold Sinn Fein's position in relation to that.

"We know it's a new technology and we need to see the science around it and the environmental impact and safety procedures. All I was saying was that you can't ignore it, and I think that's where we got in to a fair amount of discussion."

The Sinn Fein MP was not available for comment last night.

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