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From anthem squabbles and ambitious plans to unrealistic pledges

Andrew Madden


Work on the A5 still hasn’t begun

Work on the A5 still hasn’t begun

Work on the A5 still hasn’t begun

Politicians in Northern Ireland have the habit of getting into disagreements that are fairly inconsequential, in the wider scheme of things. Some disagreements, however, are just downright strange.

Anthem row

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie on Monday made a reasonable suggestion of having a separate sporting anthem for Northern Ireland, just as Wales and Scotland do.

Mr Beattie said that, while he feels pride when he hears the national anthem, a sporting anthem would “help create that cohesion I talk about when I speak about rugby”.

“I would like to see a sporting anthem, but one that doesn’t take away from the fact that our national anthem is something that I am immensely proud of,” he said.

In response, the TUV issued a statement voicing its opposition, but at the end of the statement, the party’s North Belfast Assembly election candidate Ron McDowell made this comment: “The real sporting scandal which unionists should be campaigning on is the issue of young sports men and women who do not have the right to choose which national flag they compete under. Many sports deny people from Northern Ireland the right to compete under the Union flag at the Olympics

“TUV will fight for the right of athletes from Northern Ireland in all sports to compete on the international stage for the United Kingdom. And we will certainly fight any attempt to scrap the anthem at Northern Ireland matches.”

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O’Neill’s ambitious plans

Over at Sinn Fein’s official manifesto launch, Michelle O’Neill made a bold statement. Following the election, she said her party will be ready from day one to return to the Executive and to deliver on projects such as the A5 upgrade scheme, the redevelopment of Casement Park and the expansion of the Ulster University campus at Magee. Let’s have a look at those three projects.

Plans for the redevelopment of Casement Park were first announced in 2009 and planning permission was not granted until last year.

The project is still facing a judicial review.

The expansion of the Magee campus has been talked about for decades and was a commitment in the 2020 New Decade, New Approach deal and there have been complaints about the lack of “urgency” in getting things off the ground. It is also likely that the absence of a budget, as things stand, and the potential for the continued Executive stalemate after May’s election, could hinder the progress of the project.

The much-needed upgrade of the A5 was first mooted in 2007 and has been beset by legal challenges and funding issues ever since. No physical construction on the A5 upgrade has started to date.

Given Stormont’s track record with major projects, Mrs O’Neill’s pledge is certainly ambitious. Is this case of promising the house and delivering a brick? Let’s see the lay of the land on those schemes in 12 months.

Extreme measures

Speaking of ambitious, there’s ambitious and then there’s just plain unrealistic.

On the BBC’s Nolan Show yesterday morning, People Before Profit’s Foyle candidate Shaun Harkin was grilled on his party’s manifesto.

As everyone knows, the cost-of-living crisis is spiralling out of control and impacting families right across our society.

People Before Profit’s answer to tackling the crisis is to introduce price controls on energy, fuel and food.

Mr Harkin was questioned about this, but he was short on how it would actually work.

I mean, how on earth is the Executive really going to set the price of a tin of beans in your local Asda?

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