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No gimmicks or empty promises in our vision of peace and prosperity

Northern Ireland is mired in go-slow politics being led by parties on permanent rewind. Alliance has a fast-forward alternative to accelerate the pace of much-needed change, writes David Ford

Published 28/04/2016

Alliance leader David Ford
Alliance leader David Ford

When you think of Stormont, you probably get angry. Angry at the ridiculous pantomime, the seemingly continuous crises and petty point-scoring that brings Northern Ireland to a grinding halt every few months, along with the neverending talks which prevent us moving forward.

It makes us angry, too. Alliance is just as frustrated as you and we understand your impatience at the speed of change.

But on May 5 you can move things forward faster by voting Alliance.

You deserve better than go-slow politicians, who use the pause button because it suits their selfish agenda. Or, even worse, those on permanent rewind, constantly replaying the same old arguments and backward language of division.

The same politicians who claim fairness and equality, yet continually reject the rights of the LGBT community, or allow remarks about "ethnics" by their constituents to go unchallenged.

The same politicians who claim to have overcome segregation, yet prop up a system that allows a discriminatory fair employment exemption for Catholic teachers and refuse to allow our future educators to train in one institution.

That's why Alliance is offering a sharper, smarter direction for you - an approach based on issues you find important, designed to deliver faster results for all of us.

It's a politics that ensures vital matters get debated and decided quickly.

It doesn't involve pausing, slow-motion politics, and it definitely doesn't allow rewinding.

It's a fast-forward plan built around our ambition to refresh and invigorate Northern Ireland, accelerating energetic changes in health and education to both save money and put it back into front line care and teaching.

It will drive the creation of thousands of new jobs in high-tech industries. It will speed up the redistribution of hundreds of millions of taxpayer pounds currently squandered on needless bureaucracy and over-administration. It will transform policing priorities away from managing street disorder and into more neighbourhood patrols.

Most of all, it will build on the many achievements Alliance has already delivered over the past five years.

Under Alliance ministers, public confidence in the fairness of the justice system is up, while rates of offending are down. Satisfaction levels with the PSNI are up, while the numbers of first-time entrants into the justice system are down.

Victims are now being placed at the heart of that system and their satisfaction with how that system deals with them has risen.

Processing times for youth conferences and delays in youth courts and magistrates courts are all down, as are the number of interface structures that divide our community.

Meanwhile, millions of pounds has been seized from criminals and the proceeds diverted back to the community, the legal aid system has been reformed and new laws have been brought in to tackle sexual crimes, fuel-laundering and to increase sentences and fines for those guilty of serious animal cruelty cases.

There has been more fundamental reform to the justice system in the six years since Alliance took control of the ministry than in the previous generation. All of it has been around the concept of building a safer and shared community.

Meanwhile, in just five years in charge of the Department of Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry has delivered a new strategy to radically transform apprenticeship opportunities, assisted thousands of people to find sustainable employment and delivered new investments to build our base in science and the knowledge economy, to name but a few of his achievements.

And these are only the short-term outcomes. Much of the reform agenda implemented has been of a long-term nature, with outcomes which will only truly be seen in years to come.

Like you, we want to see real delivery, not more delay caused by the fudge and waffle of other parties. That's why our manifesto is a working document that contains no gimmicks or empty promises.

Instead, it sets out the steps we'll take to get Northern Ireland better, sooner.

It is a manifesto full of ambition - to build an integrated society by increasing integrated education and mixed housing provision, while removing interface barriers, so people can live, learn, work and play together.

It also tackles the costs of division, which costs us hundreds of millions of pounds each year. We will reinvest that money in areas which need it, such as health, skills and protecting the vulnerable.

Alliance knows our economy is consistently underachieving - that's why we are determined to invest in the skills we need to make Northern Ireland the most dynamic regional economy in Europe by 2030.

We are also committed to transparency in politics, which is why we're the only party that publishes details of where our major donations come from and why we delivered a change in the law to force others to do so in future.

Alliance has already made a real difference to the lives of everyone in our society. All of that has been achieved with eight MLAs. Imagine the progress that could be achieved with even more.

An Alliance team with progressive policies. An Alliance team that challenges anti-European and anti-immigrant rhetoric, that supports the protection and extension of human rights for all, and that knows the importance of freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

An Alliance team that fights against the Government's cuts agenda and delivers high-quality, shared services without sectarian carve-ups.

An Alliance team that wants to see a progressive, prosperous and peaceful Northern Ireland in which everyone reaches their potential.

But we need your help. To increase the speed of change. To get to better, sooner.

On May 5 vote Alliance and help us move forward, faster, together.

David Ford is leader of the Alliance Party

Belfast Telegraph

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