The SDLP has launched its four principles for rebuilding the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The principles, developed by SDLP Finance Spokesperson Matthew O’Toole and Economy Spokesperson Sinead McLaughlin, prioritise specific policy areas that will underpin long-term economic recovery in Northern Ireland.

The COVID-19 pandemic has particularly compromised sectors that are disproportionately important in Northern Ireland – tourism, hospitality, retail and aerospace -while also coming at a dangerous time for our society and economy because of Brexit and the uncertain implementation of the Ireland protocol. However, there has been worryingly little in the way of long-term thinking from either the Executive or the two larger parties. As we begin to cautiously emerge from economic lockdown, a forward-thinking conversation on a sustainable recovery, including genuinely critical prioritisation, has never been more urgent. The SDLP’s new principles aim to guide thinking on both well-rehearsed structural problems, and new post-COVID, post-Brexit challenges facing our economy.

The four principles call for:

–          A New Deal for Young People, recognising that COVID will have a disproportionate impact on the younger generation, as well as risking the worsening of existing generational and class divisions.

–          A New Localism, reflecting the desire to use this opportunity to change the places we live and work.

–          New Connectivity, to focus on how we connect people to economic opportunity in the post-COVID, post-Brexit world.

–          New Powers to transform Northern Ireland, giving devolved institutions new powers to address serious structural issues facing the local economy.

SDLP Finance Spokesperson Matthew O’Toole said: 

“Critically, these principles are an exercise in prioritisation. Too often in Northern Ireland, political manifestos suffer by excluding nothing, meaning no real thinking is done on prioritisation. There is a clear need for meaningful long-term policy prioritisation. These four principles do not represent a detailed manifesto, nor can they offer a cure for the short-term economic shock of COVID. Their aim is to guide serious policy thinking as our society and economy face the joint challenges of COVID and Brexit. They recognise the need to make our economy and our lives more sustainable, to ensure that Northern Ireland is an attractive place for our young people to live and work, to enhance all-island as well as east-west connectivity, and to provide new powers for devolved government to address these structural challenges.

“Last week, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the SDLP. We now need to ensure that over the next 50 years, principles like these will guide our thinking as a party and a society so that we can continue to drive economic and social progress on this island.”

Sinead McLaughlin, SDLP Economy Spokesperson and MLA for Foyle added: 

“New Decade New Approach was supposed to present a new start and new policies. Yet we have not seen new ideas coming from the larger parties. The SDLP has always been the party willing to bring forward exciting new policies, capable of taking our society forward. We want to see progress and development, creating more jobs that lead to a more productive, higher skilled and more satisfied society, geared towards social justice and a sustainable economy. This package of policies would produce exactly this.”

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