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As we move into 2024 there is, as always, a sense of renewal. A time of hope and change as the dark days wane and we hurtle towards spring. It is also an election year for the United Kingdom, the European Union and, probably, Ireland. All will have an effect on Northern Ireland.

The General Election looks like it's going to be one of the most fiercely fought campaigns in some years. The outcome is likely to be closer alignment between the United Kingdom and the European Union, regardless of whether the Conservatives or Labour form the next Government.

For Brexit purists it will be a lose-lose outcome, reinforcing the fact that nobody got the Brexit they wanted. Acknowledging many didn't want Brexit at all.

For Northern Ireland the drama goes on, the Windsor Framework will continue to be implemented with no input from Northern Irish politicians. Those calling for a continuation of the Stormont boycott until there is a Labour Government must realise nothing will change except a further decline in public services and unionist influence and representation.

The negotiations between the United Kingdom Government and the DUP are over. That doesn't mean they have stopped talking but it does mean the Governments final offer is on the table. It is now for the DUP to say yes or no to allow us to prepare for what comes next.

A 'yes' will move us into process to establish devolved government. It will allow for the release of the £3.3 Billion desperately needed funds to stabilise public services.  To put a pay award on the table for public service workers in order to avert a general strike.

It will allow Northern Irish politicians to make decisions in the best interests of its people, tackle the issues surrounding the Windsor Framework while promoting the opportunities it presents. It will allow unionists to stand for election on democratic visionary policies and not on undemocratic and unworkable boycotts.

Alternatively, a ‘no’ will have the counter effect. It will allow our public services to crumble beyond where they are now. It will leave our public service workers no alternative other than to strike, promoting Northern Ireland as a failed part of the United Kingdom. The £3.3 Billion of much needed funds will not be released, a tactic I cannot support as it reinforces the ongoing ransom politic of boycott.

A 'no' will see the Windsor Framework continue with no safeguards. It will see the Dublin Government have more input on devolved issues through the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. It will galvanise those who do not support boycott to vote out unionist politicians that do, leaving Northern Ireland in a weaker position within the Union.

I think Northern Ireland has many challenges ahead, but the future could be brighter if the right decisions are taken now. By making Northern Ireland work we provide for all its people, making them feel valued and delivering a sense of purpose.

A prosperity agenda is not just about financial wealth. It is also about physical and mental health; it's about feeling happy, connected, engaged and listened to. It's about having more disposable income in your pocket and long-term opportunity.

It's about delivering a lived experience our people want and deserve, where everyone is treated fairly and equitably, irrespective of political views, religious belief, race, ethnicity, disability, age, marital status or sexual orientation

‘As we move into 2024 there is, as always, a sense of renewal.’ Let's grasp it with both hands and make Northern Ireland work.