Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Key issues in spotlight as NICVA quizzes candidates

Health, homelessness and welfare reform were some of the key issues debated by Assembly candidates at a lively hustings debate organised by the voluntary sector in Belfast.

Host William Crawley described this campaign as “different” because the election panel showed a “seriousness about bread and butter politics”.

There was a poignant reminder of the past as the event began with condemnation of the murder of PSNI Constable Ronan Kerr from NICVA chair Bob Stronge on behalf of the voluntary sector.

The umbrella voluntary sector organisation also launched its policy manifesto for the election.

Introducing the platform, NICVA chief executive Seamus McAreavey described how the economy needs to work for all and referred to the Green New Deal that covers housing and the economy as well as the environment.

The floor was then opened up for a two-hour debate in which candidates were given 60 seconds to answer questions.

The panel consisted of Alban Maginness from the SDLP, Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit, Clare Bailey from the Green Party, Bill Manwaring of the UUP, Anna Lo from Alliance, Caral Ni Chuilin of Sinn Fein and Simon Hamilton of the DUP.

The first subject was health which was described as “a big issue on the doorstep”.

The DUP’s Simon Hamilton said “huge reform was needed” at the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin called for consultants’ salaries and bonuses to be capped to allow monies to be redistributed in the health service.

The SDLP’s Alban Maginness said the basic principle behind welfare reform is “the Tory principle of welfare to work”.

He noted that for this to work it requires a “vibrant local economy with jobs for people”.

Green candidate Clare Bailey said she was glad NICVA was supporting the Green New Deal and this would address the issue of unemployment and the economy.

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