Belfast Telegraph

Local Election 2019

Sinn Fein prioritising border poll over health care reform, says Arlene Foster as DUP launch election campaign

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster

The DUP has accused Sinn Fein of prioritising a border poll over reform of Northern Ireland health care system.

Monday saw the close of the nominations for the forthcoming local government elections.

Over the weekend on Sinn Fein's launch of its campaign, Michelle O'Neill said there was "change in the air" and pointing to Brexit said more were considering the implications to leaving the EU with the UK or staying as part of a united Ireland.

She said a referendum on the border was a “very real prospect within the next short number of years”.

Arlene Foster addressed the claims in her party's campaign launch.

"The DUP manifesto for these local government elections will encourage councils to play their part in the promotion of public health, something highlighted in the Bengoa report.

"Instead of getting back into Stormont and implementing Bengoa, Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill, a former health minister, seem obsessed with a divisive border poll and their own narrow agenda.

"They have their “Bs” mixed up."

The 2016 Bengoa report recommended wide-scale reform of health care in Northern Ireland to address spiralling waiting lists and deteriorating conditions faced by patients. With the absence of devolved government in Northern Ireland there has been no minister in place to implement the much-needed reform.

Continued Arlene Foster: "Boasting that the 'unionist majority is gone' also gives a clear insight into Sinn Fein’s attitude towards working with others, whether that is in council chambers or in Stormont.

"The Sinn Fein approach towards unionism was encapsulated by the 'England get out of Ireland banner' for which Mary Lou McDonald was eventually forced to apologise for.

"I want to see all parties back in Stormont immediately.  In its absence, our local councils are the only functioning local democratic structures within Northern Ireland.

"Sinn Fein will persuade no-one that a united Ireland will work for them when they block the return of Stormont, refuse to do their job at Westminster and they appear determined to bring this same approach to council chambers.

"Whilst Sinn Fein focus on a divisive border poll, the DUP will get on with using our influence in Westminster to deliver more money to tackle waiting lists and improve our mental health services.”

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