UUP Leader Doug Beattie MC MLA LGE23 Manifesto launch speech
UUP Leader Doug Beattie MC MLA LGE23 Manifesto launch speech
UUP Leader Doug Beattie MC MLA
Ulster Unionist Party Local Government Election Manifesto Launch
Linen Hall Library, Belfast, Tuesday 9 May 2023
It has been 25 years since the Belfast Agreement managed to strike a balance that previously had been elusive. The 25 years since 1998 have without a doubt been much, much better for all our people than the 25 years before.
This Party rightly remains proud of the role played by our members in making the Agreement a reality and of the leadership they showed.
The Belfast Agreement was, and remains, a monumental achievement. It provides hope to countries across the world that are still torn apart by conflict that they may too one day enjoy the peace that we do.
It is also evident that we still have work to do. We must deliver on the promise of the Agreement and ensure all our people enjoy peace and prosperity.
The last time we fought a Local Government election it was 2019. We faced a similar situation to the one we do now – we were without an Assembly and Executive following Sinn Fein’s decision to collapse the institutions.
In 2023 we are once again without the devolved institutions as the DUP refuse to form an Executive.
Yet Local Government has been a constant. Delivered without breaks, without dramas, through changing times and changing environments.
I want to see Northern Ireland’ councils continue to be the heart of decision making within the communities they represent. This is vital, now more than ever, while Stormont remains mothballed.
This election offers a clear choice. Between delivery or dysfunction.
I do not want to see our councils become a series of mini-Stormonts where the toxicity that has frustrated the Assembly and Executive takes root. We cannot afford to see Local Government grind to a halt.
The Ulster Unionist Party stands ready to deliver and serve the needs of all our people.
Today we stand in the Linen Hall Library. First established in 1788 and known as the Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge.
The library has weathered many challenges and many changes. It has moved locations, faced wars, was affected by the bombing campaign of the IRA and faced closure. Yet through it all, the library survived and is now thriving.
As Ulster Unionists we too have faced many challenges. We have experienced the many changes in Northern Ireland, a concerted campaign by terrorists to murder our members during the Troubles and have known difficult days electorally.
Yet we stand here today confident and more convinced than ever that our vision for Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom is a winning one.
In this election 101 candidates stand ready to deliver that vision if elected on 18 May.
This election is a local election about issues the people of Northern Ireland face in their respective council areas.
However, we cannot ignore the fact that many people continue to have deep concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The Protocol of 2019 was disastrous and continues to have a damaging effect on politics in Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Unionist Party warned of the dangers from the moment Boris Johnson’s proposals emerged on the 2 October 2019. We have been definitive in our opposition throughout and have articulated the many pitfalls of the Protocol.
In the years since we have consistently played our part in providing alternative solutions and lobbied for change across the United Kingdom and European Union.
We are now presented with the Windsor Framework. It provides both challenges and opportunities. It also represents what many said was impossible – further movement from the European Union.
What we can now not afford is for decisions that impact on Northern Ireland to continue to be made over our heads. That is why it is the firm belief of the Ulster Unionist Party that the Assembly and Executive must be restored to deal with the challenges still posed by the Windsor Framework and to grasp its opportunities.
Unionism can use the platform of having Ministers and Assembly Members in place to make further progress on these issues, all while dealing with the growing pressures in our Health Service and other areas.
It is unconscionable that as cuts to services grow deeper, Stormont remains on ice.
As well as maintaining our place in the United Kingdom, Unionism has a duty to make Northern Ireland work.
We are asking the public for their vote on the 18 May with the promise that the decisions we take and promises we make are with the long-term strategic interests of Northern Ireland and Unionism in mind.
The business of making Northern Ireland work is not just about getting the big decisions right. It’s also about those every day decisions that need to be made in order to keep the wheels of our society turning.
I know our Councillors have put in the work over the last four years on everything from waste management, to planning decisions and maintaining parks and leisure facilities.
It is neither easy nor glamourous work and I commend them for all they have done.
And they are just as ambitious for the next term focusing on local issues such as parking, upskilling their workforce, the rural community, farming, dealing with isolation, poor mental health, improvements in infrastructure, town centre regeneration and, of course, a greener, cleaner environment.
All of this while ensuring the rates are value for money.
Yet nothing that is done at local level is done in isolation. City and Growth Deals are a collaboration between the United Kingdom Government, Stormont and local councils. It is worth £1.3billion.
Small and medium enterprises make up 99% of all Northern Ireland businesses. Late payment of invoices is a real source of stress for these SMEs. The Ulster Unionist Party commit to acting to ensure each council pays its bills promptly. We will press each council to consider appointing a prompt payment champion, publicising its payment data and to pay interest on late payment.
Planning and regeneration go hand in hand. We will push to devolve regeneration powers to councils with a focus on overhauling planning powers, systems and approach.
On 18 May the people of Northern Ireland will have the ability to vote for a Party that puts the people first, that will deal with the local issues and won’t shy away from big decisions.
We will focus on making Northern Ireland work.
So let me make a direct plea to those of you out there who are pro-Union and no longer vote. Or you might be someone who is considering voting Ulster Unionist for the first time.
You can make a difference by showing moral courage.
In voting for an Ulster Unionist candidate you can be assured they will fulfil their promises with integrity, with honesty, with compassion and with respect for others.
If you are not from a traditional pro-Union community, we will respect our differences and aspirations. We will represent you regardless of your religion, sexual orientation community or ethnicity.
We know making Northern Ireland work is good for all our people; it will also secure our future. We must think long term and vote for a strategic vison for the future which the Ulster Unionist Party can and will deliver.
There will be challenges ahead. But challenges don’t have to mean crisis.
I appeal to all those who are expressing their frustration at the current stalemate to join with us to realise this vision.
If you want change, you must vote for it. If you want Northern Ireland to work then the 18 May is your opportunity to make it work by voting for the Ulster Unionist Party.