2015 Westminster Election 2015 – Newry/Armagh

May 4, 2015

To round up The Examiner’s Westminster election coverage ahead of polling day this Thursday 7th May, we remind readers of the promises and aspirations of all five Newry and Armagh constituency candidates.

Polling stations open from 7.00am until 10.00pm and counting will take place overnight with the first results expected early on Friday morning.

Mickey Brady

The 63 year old MLA, who is renowned throughout the district for his work in Welfare Rights over the last four decades, was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007 as a Sinn Fein member for Newry and Armagh and successfully held the seat again in 2011.

Mickey believes strongly that the “bread and butter issues” among constituents are to do with welfare and benefits, as opposed to legacy issues such as flags and emblems.

“People are trying to live as best they can on a day to day basis. If you’re a lone parent for example,  I don’t think you’re particularly worried about flags and legacy issues – you’re concerned about feeding and clothing your children.”

The Sinn Fein candidate says benefits and welfare cuts will have a “massive” effect on people and reiterates Sinn Fein’s “firm stance” against Welfare Reform, which he says, will affect more than just the unemployed.

He is passionate about tackling the related issues of child poverty in the Newry and Armagh constituency, the Northern Ireland pension system and “our low wage economy with zero hour contracts and a low minimum wage.”

He is adamant that the party’s abstention policy will not hinder his chances in any way and is confident of increasing the majority of over 8,000 achieved in the last election  in 2011.

“Although as a Sinn Fein MP, we abstain from sitting in the British parliament, we’re networking, lobbying with parties, involved in international issues,  fighting for the best possible deals for your own constituency.

“Most of the big issues that affect the 6 counties are decided here in the North,” he adds.

“I know what’s important to people and as a Westminster MP I would have more time in the constituency, more time to ensure that the Newry Armagh constituency has a very high profile and more opportunity to lobby in Westminster about the issues that matter to the people in this district. For me, being elected as MP for this area means I can concentrate on ensuring that what people need to improve their daily lives is being provided.”

Danny Kennedy

The current UUP Regional Development Minister whose political career spans some 30 years has been a member of The Northern Ireland Assembly since 1998 and was the Deputy Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party from 2005 to 2010. The 55 year old Bessbrook native believes there is “a clear desire” amongst the Unionist electorate for a single Unionist candidate to stand in the Westminster election and insists the key issue at this election is how Newry and Armagh is to be represented at Westminster.

“I am acutely aware that voters across Newry & Armagh are fed up with having no representation at Westminster as a consequence of Sinn Fein’s abstentionist policy and they are particularly conscious of the impact this is having on the ability of their constituency to attract inward investment and to protect vital services in the area when there is no voice within the House of Commons to fight their corner on such important issues,” he says.

“It is time that the voice of all of the constituents of Newry & Armagh is heard again in the House of Commons.  No longer can we tolerate a situation where the member elected to Parliament refuses to participate in debates in the Chamber or actively work the Committee system and I give a resolute assurance to the electorate that I will be fully committed to serving their needs in a positive fashion.”

The Westminster hopeful believes what sets him apart from other candidates is  the experience he has gained as a public representative over the last 30 years.

“I believe that I have a wider appeal to the entire electorate of Newry & Armagh and can represent everyone in a fair and balanced way.”

“I am passionate about promoting this area in a positive manner and this needs to be done in Westminster.”

Justin McNulty

Former Armagh senior footballer, All-Ireland winner and Laois Manager Justin McNulty, the SDLP Westminster candidate, has described his election race as a “movement for change” rather than merely a campaign.

Justin vows to be a “thorn in the side of David Cameron and the Tory cuts” and has also pledged to fight the increases in the UK defence budget in order to segregate money for better use in Newry and Armagh.

“In Westminster there are proposals to upgrade the Trident Fleet at a cost of billions of pounds. We need to segregate some of that budget towards Northern Ireland to save our hospitals, to save the Stroke Unit in Daisy Hill, to re-open the Minor Injuries Unit in Armagh city, to provide better manpower for the GP Out-of-hours service.

“These are all things that matter to people on the ground, so we need money taken away from a defence budget that is not going to help Newry and Armagh and segregated into something that will help our community going forward.

“I’m going to Westminster for a better deal,” says the SDLP candidate.

“That is where the money is held and you cannot affect financial decisions in Stormont. My aim is to make sure there is devolution of fiscal powers and to give the people of Newry and Armagh, the people of Northern Ireland control of the purse strings.”

Justin says his priorities for this constituency will always be “jobs and the economy, health, education, welfare cuts and  infrastructure to attract foreign investment.” Fighting for the education sector is also high on his agenda.

“People need to understand there’s only one vote that will make a real difference and that’s a vote for the SDLP.

“We’ve seen ten years of a wasted seat so we need someone who is going to go to work to effect change. A vote for other parties is a backdoor vote for the Tories and people need to recognise that. The establishment over this last ten years has failed to deliver and it now  needs someone who can deliver real tangible results for this area and I’m the man who can do that for the people of Newry and Armagh.”

Kate Nicholl

Zimbabwean-born Alliance candidate Kate Nicholl believes her international background means she has “never fitted into a stereotypical orange or green box” and has found her “natural home” in the Alliance Party.

“Dedicated to playing her part “in building a shared future,” the Alliance candidate describes her campaign as “positive politics” and has vowed to tackle the issues most important to the people of Newry and Armagh, including jobs, housing, healthcare and cross border crime.

Kate promises to be a “champion” for Newry & Armagh in Westminster, seeking investment for the area and supporting small businesses with specific plans to promote entrepreneurship and the regeneration of the high street.

As well as being passionate about the protection of the environment, she believes the Northern Ireland political system needs radically transformed “so there is a more normal government and opposition political system and that the number of vetoes is reduced.”

“Other issues I’m passionate about are protecting our environment, ending the cost of division, maintaining our relations with the EU and ensuring we have a modern health service.

Vehemently opposed to Welfare Reform, Kate vows that, as an MP she would “firstly take my seat and continue to argue for a fairer UK-wide benefits system as this will have the greatest impact on what we are able to afford.”

Kate believes she offers “an alternative to the stale politics of the past. If people believe – as I do – that in order for us to move forward we need to work together then I hope they’ll consider giving me their vote.”

Robert Rigby

Conservative candidate Robert Rigby describes himself as “a compassionate Conservative who believes passionately in a fair and just society which helps those less vulnerable, protects the elderly, educates our children in the best possible way and rewards hard work.”

The London based candidate, who has been a Councillor in Westminster since 2010, states the economy and welfare reforms as high on his agenda and insists the Conservatives “are the party of the working people” committed to giving people on the minimum wage, working 30 hours per week “a fair deal where they will pay no income tax.”

The Conservative candidate believes employment and job security are pertinent issues among Newry and Armagh constituents, in addition to local services and health care provision.

If elected to Westminster Robert vows that, among other things, he will fight to lower corporation tax and believes cutting income tax will mean “the residents in Newry and Armagh can keep more of their well earned money.”

Mr Rigby admits that the Conservative imposed Welfare Reform cuts are “difficult” but pledges “to protect those services which are essential for the amenity and livelihood of the residents in Newry & Armagh.”

He believes the cuts are essential to help clear the UK deficit and says the commitment of £8 billion in extra spending on the UK health service over the next 5 years will increase funding to the NI Executive by £160 million.

“A vote for me and the Conservatives is a vote for a continuation on the road to a better future by creating work for all who want it, a better life for our children, security for our families and cutting taxes.”