Get ready for yet more fantasy policies from marginal parties

Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson

I had a great laugh but also felt a bit sorry for the unfortunate leader of the Green Party as she stumbled through an interview on her party policy on social housing.

We would build 500,000 houses she declared but didn’t know the cost or where the money would come from. Then she guessed and chose a figure which the interviewer wrongly calculated at £60,000 per house but was actually £9,000 per house. Was she going to build them out of plywood he asked as she coughed and spluttered in embarrassment.

Well what do you expect from a party with daft policies such as not eating bacon on a Monday in order to save the planet; freedom for citizens to join terrorist organisations because they should have the right to express themselves; investing in the dearest electricity known to man regardless of the impact on poverty and jobs?

Crackers all of them and until now, they could sit in their green groups, eating some vile vegan dish by non-fossil fuel candlelight dreaming up policies which were ensured to keep them unelectable. However, in the run up to this election they are under scrutiny and the incoherency of their green wish list has been opened to ridicule.

Other more polished performers have equally undeliverable ideas but hide them better. In some cases there may even be public sympathy for them just as I am sure every right-thinking person would like to see an increase in social house building, but they cannot be delivered on wishes.

Take the Trade Union strike on Monday. Do they really believe that by bringing public sector services to a halt they can magic away the need to balance and live within the budget available to the NI Executive? Striking is not going to create one more penny and Trade Unionists’ attempts to explain the strategy behind their actions is as embarrassing as Ms Bennett’s attempt to explain her housing policy.

Another example is Jim Allister’s promise to reform government in Northern Ireland and deliver a proper opposition if people vote for the TUV. It is highly implausible. Of course we need proper opposition but voting for the TUV will not deliver this because any change in government structure requires the backing of the other parties in the Executive and that has not been forthcoming.

His contention that he can deliver changes to the way we are governed is the constitutional equivalent of the Green Party’s plywood shanty town housing policy or the Trade Union’s strike to end austerity strategy.

Policies must be realistic and deliverable that is why the DUP has presented a simple deliverable choice to the electorate in the forthcoming General Election. Elect the biggest block of representatives from the one party which has a chance of having influence if there is a hung parliament. That way the interests of Northern Ireland can be safeguarded and the impact of national policies can be tailored to our best advantage. That is simple, clear, deliverable and sensible.

• It sounds innocuous but is David Ford’s innocent sounding normalisation of the Criminal Damage Compensation law yet another example of his party’s anti-unionist mentality manifesting itself in legislation?

His proposal to refuse compensation for criminal damage to Orange Halls unless the chief constable gives assurances that the attack was the work of a proscribed organisation or was carried out by at least 12 people, will reverse the current law which my party successfully lobbied for in 2009.

Until then conditions, not quite as onerous as those now being proposed, prevented most Orange Halls which were destroyed in the ongoing sectarian campaign by republicans from being eligible for compensation.

The result was that between 1990 and 2010 over 500 Orange Halls were attacked in an attempt to stamp out any unionist presence in some areas. Since we persuaded Gordon Brown to change the Criminal Damage Compensation Order in 2009 the number of a ttacks on Orange Halls in the last five years has fallen to just above the yearly average of 22 for 1990-2010.

The reason is clear: republicans knew that the result of their bigoted actions was the building of a new and better hall rather than the removal of a vital community facility for the often beleaguered unionist population.

The danger is that David Ford’s proposal will give the green light for a renewed onslaught on Orange Halls across Northern Ireland by republicans who, as recent events in Newry have shown, have still an untapped well of bigotry from which they wish to pour out their bitterness. Many of the halls, built over 100 years ago, are located in areas affected by population change leaving them particularly vulnerable.

So what has provoked this proposal from David Ford? It couldn’t be the cost, given that last year only two claims would have been eligible. It couldn’t be abuse of the scheme because no challenges have ever been made to cases lodged.

He has to answer some pertinent questions. Who lobbied for this change? The chief constable? The GAA? Sinn Fein? How much will it save? What’s the chief constable’s assessment of the likely impact on criminal attacks on Orange Halls?

The record of the Alliance party on showing disregard for unionists and their culture is well documented. David Ford must not let his prejudices colour his view on this compensation issue.