The DUP and Ulster Unionists clashed bitterly yesterday over the record of the Stormont Executive over the past four years
A top DUP team trumpeted achievements of the outgoing Executive and tackled public complaints that ministers have done “absolutely nothing”.
The party staged a press conference to launch a leaflet on 40 achievements, which included free travel for the over 60s, freezing the regional rate and deferral of water charges in the top three.
But senior Ulster Unionist Fred Cobain argued that while claiming credit, the DUP was less keen to take responsibility for failures including the multi-million pound reform of public administration, the multi-sports stadium at the Maze and catastrophes like the water and gritting shortage over the Christmas/ New Year holiday.
DUP Deputy leader Nigel Dodds, who quit Stormont under the party’s policy to end double-jobbing, stressed, however: “This document is about the Executive’s achievements but all we hear is the Stormont Executive has achieved absolutely nothing.
“This is a pretty impressive list and it is very easy to overlook that with all the negativity out there though we readily acknowledge there is still a considerable
amount of work to be done.”
He and Executive Ministers Sammy Wilson, Arlene Foster and Nelson McCausland denied being guilty of a degree of complacency and argued that as the largest party the DUP has shown leadership.
“There have been difficulties on the Executive (but) we have worked out way through that,” Mr Wilson said.
The outgoing Finance Minister said while individual ministers had driven specific policies, DUP “fingerprints” would be found on all of the 40 achievements.
Outgoing Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster referred to the creation of 31,000 new jobs and said there were some who still wanted to pin the global economic downturn on the Executive.
“Average household bills in Northern Ireland are £1,500 less than they are elsewhere,” said Mr Dodds.
“That is not complacency, that is a fact.”
The North Belfast MP also criticised the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP for “running down the Executive” even though they are part of it.
But his North Belfast rival Mr Cobain said free prescriptions was a UUP manifesto commitment and failed to mention that there are currently 59,100 people in Northern Ireland claiming unemployment benefit – up 6.3% from last year.