McNarry says MLAs are using social issues as a smokescreen to hide the fact that they are not actually doing their job on the economy
David McNarry MLA, the UKIP Leader in Northern Ireland, has said the Assembly is hiding behind a smokescreen of social issues rather than dealing with the pressing economic issues which confront Northern Ireland and which the Assembly is signally failing to properly address.
“Out of the 149 Private Members’ Motions debated in the Assembly between 2013 and 2015, 60% deal with social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion while a mere 19% deal with economic issues. A further 13% deal with security related issues and 3% with environmental issues. While I am not denying that social issues have their place, it is clear from these figures that the MLAs are obsessed with them. It is also clear that, in comparison, they have a very low level of interest in economic issues.
“Most of the public want an Assembly that addresses economic issues such as job creation and job protection, youth unemployment, rates reductions for at-risk businesses, better infrastructure, boosting exports, improving the balance between private sector and public sector employment and developing our economy which lags precariously behind the rest of the UK in terms of recovery. Yet what the MLAs are serving up to the public is a diet, 60% of which is focused on social issues.
“This is one of the reasons why the Assembly is regarded by most of the public as being hopelessly out-of-touch. It is why the Assembly is seen as irrelevant to most people’s lives. While social issues have a certain importance, they often impact on a relatively small percentage of the electorate while the economy impacts on everyone. People are worried about jobs and whether or not they will stay in a job. That is what puts bread on the table. You have to ask : just what percentage of people are affected by same-sex marriage or abortion? These things matter terribly to the people affected by them but do they really justify our MLAs spending 60% of their time on them?”
Mr McNarry added:
“The truth is that many social issues offer a distraction to the Assembly’s total failure to get to grips with running our economy properly. Social issues provide the material for endless debate shows on radio and television. Indeed they may even reflect the personal interest of the presenters involved. The truth is, however, that they are taking up too much of the Assembly’s time and they are providing an excuse for our legislators not actually doing their job. Agonising about this or that social issue helps some MLAs to portray themselves as compassionate people, worthy of your votes. What the public need to ask is not whether the MLAs are compassionate people or not but are they doing the most important job for which they were elected – running our economy properly. That is the real acid test and it is why the Assembly is regarded by many as an irrelevant talking shop.”