The Unionist Party of Ulster has published a statement on the May Stormont Assembly elections. HMS Caroline’s World War I visit was an unusual scenario in East Belfast when the party released a 40-page policy document.
Health receives the highest bill of seven, while there are two in Northern Ireland’s exit protocol from the European Union.
Speaking at Thursday’s launch event, UUP leader Doug Petty said there would be no united Ireland for generations and accused rivals of using the protocol as an “election slogan”.
Here are some of the party’s manifesto key messages and policies:
The union, which has held health minister Robin Swann since 2020, said the party “has come forward and taken on responsibilities that others have chosen to avoid”. He said the early use of the Covid-19 vaccine demonstrated “the importance and advantages of Northern Ireland’s position within the Union”.
The party wants to focus on “restoring health care” after the pandemic. It is proposed to create a new role for the Health and Social Care Executive Director for the day-to-day work of the health services.
The role will be operationally independent but accountable to a board consisting of representatives of the political, professional, and civic community, as well as the PSNI Agreements. Other ideas include creating a consolidated mental health fund for Northern Ireland and a moratorium on the use of contract agency workers “when immediate pressure from the National Security Council subsides”.
Northern Ireland Protocol
The EU said it was continuing to search for “reasonable alternatives” to post-Brexit trade deals in the Irish Sea. He said unionists could not cross the UK’s internal borders and that the UUP had repeatedly warned of “potential threats” during talks between the UK and the EU.
He added: “Obviously access to the EU’s single market brings some benefits, but it cannot be detrimental to our relationship with the UK’s internal market.” His proposals include labeling goods imported from the UK into Northern Ireland and not from the EU single market in the Republic of Ireland as ‘for sale in the UK only’.
The party is also proposing new Westminster legislation to ensure businesses are held accountable for ensuring equal safety for all regions of the UK.
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UUP wants to create a ‘Skills Fund’ in Northern Ireland to improve apprenticeships, internships and lifelong learning for all workers. It is said to be similar to skill development in Scotland and the Skillnet in the Republic of Ireland.
The party said it will ask for more support for tariff cuts for companies in the next session of the assembly. He wants to “move forward” to lowering the Northern Ireland corporate tax rate to 15% in the future.
The party also proposes that all ports and airports in Northern Ireland be defined as “free ports”, and special types of ports where normal tax and customs regulations do not apply.
Unionists in Ulster are proposing an “Independent Infrastructure Committee” to provide annual evaluations to the Stormont CEO. The party supports expanding Translink’s Glider bus service to North Belfast, but does not specify which route it would prefer.
He said the rapid expansion of the electric vehicle charging network should be a priority for the future executive branch. The party wants to replace the public company NI Water with a not-for-profit dual model and give it the right to borrow from its asset base and implement multi-year investment plans.
He still opposes the water tax. The UUP also wants to review energy security and prices to create an “all-island energy market”.
The UUP proposes the creation of a “united multi-denominational education system”. He believes that the education sector under current control “is the best example of the development of a unified education system for Northern Ireland”.
The party expressed its support for grammar schools, and said it wanted to conduct research on the potential transfer of P7 students, based on ongoing evaluations. The party is offering a review of Free School Meals “to provide free meals every day to all elementary school children.”
He wants to introduce legislation that would allow the Department of Education to issue regulatory guidelines to reduce the cost of school uniforms.
The Association of British Universities said housing should be a separate issue to be agreed upon in multi-year budgets in the government’s new programme. He proposes to the Executive the creation of an independent strategy for the unit, as well as the creation of a “Fuel Poverty Working Group”.
As for the police, the party wants to appoint another 500 officers over the next three years. It would be urgent, he said, that this objective be adequately funded in the multi-year budget of the next Assembly. The party also wants to ban so-called gay conversion therapy in Northern Ireland.