Green Party hoping to treble number of seats, says Agnew
The Green Party will be disappointed if it fails to win at least three seats in the next Assembly, its leader has said.
Steven Agnew, currently the sole Green in Stormont, said his party was targeting South Belfast, where deputy leader Clare Bailey is standing, and East Belfast, where candidate Ross Brown hopes to grab a place.
Mr Agnew is facing increased competition in his North Down constituency, where he is being challenged by former political mentor Brian Wilson.
Launching the party's manifesto yesterday, Mr Agnew said he wished his predecessor as Green Party leader well.
"If he does get elected, it will not be at my expense," he added. "He has said he is not really a party man, having been a member of two parties, and is running as an independent. Having worked for him for a number of years, I owe Brian a lot."
Mr Wilson, who stood down as an MLA in 2011, said: "When I left the Assembly I had no wish or intention to return. But as I followed the action - or more accurately, the inaction - of the Assembly over the past five years, I began to despair.
"The Assembly has become known for its allowances scandal, gridlock, refusal to hold meetings, bickering, insults over language and point-scoring."
For the first time, the Green Party is running candidates across all 18 constituencies.
Mr Agnew said he was confident it could build on its success in the local government elections. "Given the surge, I will be disappointed if we do not get three MLAs in the next Assembly," he added. "They will be in North Down, South Belfast, East Belfast and even further."
Mr Agnew said people were fed up with the "waste of time", "waste of money", the "waste of opportunities" and Stormont's failure to deliver.
He pointed to "fiascos" such as the DUP's in-out ministers last autumn - in protest over the murder of Kevin McGuigan - and said Stormont should be ensuring that the potential of devolution is not wasted.
Ms Bailey, meanwhile, said opinion polls were "way ahead of parties" on issues including marriage equality and abortion.
And East Belfast candidate Mr Brown added: "Stormont has been synonymous with waste. This generation of politicians are sitting like frogs in slowly boiling water and failing to address so many issues."
Among the manifesto's proposals is spending £25 for every person in Northern Ireland on cycling infrastructure, "which would catch us up with the rest of Europe".
The party also wants to see a comprehensive home insulation scheme to make houses energy efficient and a voluntary payment scheme for people who wish to contribute towards the cost of their prescriptions.