Belfast Telegraph

Public more concerned about economy than politics: It should come as a wake-up call for the Northern Ireland Executive

By Will Chambre

It turns out that people in Northern Ireland are more concerned about the economy than about politics – who’d have thought it.

In a survey carried out for the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, 51% of respondents expressed an interest in the economy compared to 40% who were interested in politics.

But, it should come as a wake-up call for the Northern Ireland Executive. While no one is suggesting that voters will switch their allegiance from unionism to nationalism, or vice versa, on the basis of economic policies. It does, however, throw up an interesting conundrum, as parties face down the barrel of impending local government and European elections.

What is clear is that the majority of the electorate are turned off by the political point scoring and are more concerned about the pound in their pocket and what they can buy with it. Surprised?
Well next time you head to the shops, will you think about the last debate in the Assembly chamber or the price of a bag of spuds?

It also turns out that people don’t really fit into neat categories of left or right – which will make the forthcoming consultation on a ‘gay’ rights strategy so interesting.

However, when it comes down to the economy, the fact that people care little about the political landscape may leave some of our local parties scratching their heads.

After all, if there is one area that NI Executive ministers of all shades can point to, it is the effort that they have put into touting the wares of Northern Ireland plc around the world.

They even extend a few welcoming millions of pounds to foreign direct investors if there are jobs to boot.

The flip side of this is that no matter the efforts of our ministers and Assembly members, there are factors outside their control – global markets, commodity prices, interest rates, taxation…

Which often leaves political wrangling over issues such as flags, shared education and equality as the only means by which Party 1 can seemingly differentiate itself from Party 2.

To get to the point, despite the headlines, it is important that we dig behind the blurb and find out where each political party stands; what they can change and what they cannot change.
And make sure that when the parties can exert influence, we as voters, businesses, voluntary organisations, or whatever dictates our priorities, use this knowledge.

Of course, that is what my colleagues at Chambré Public Affairs and I  do on a daily basis for our clients.

Asides from that shameless plug for my business, you get my point; the only way to differentiate between our local parties, as they step up their electioneering, is to find out more.

The ‘Tinterweb’ – and its failings

We live in a connected world, with smartphones, tablets, PCs and seemingly everything else linked to the internet.

Any member of the public with the time and inclination, can therefore log into Northern Ireland Assembly’s website to find out what our MLAs up to.

The Assembly website has also become a vital resource for organisations large and small in tracking what has happened and what will happen ‘on the Hill’.

Thus, it was with some regret that I have to report that someone has broken the Assembly website.

As I write this this Monday morning, the Assembly website has been ‘down’ or ‘partially down’ for the last six days.

Anyone who has ever attempted to build or maintain a large website with a complex database, knows the complexity involved in its maintenance.

However, while I sympathise and empathise with the technical challenges facing my friends on the Hill, can someone please, please get a grip on the situation and fix the Assembly website ASAP.  


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