Saturday’s rally in Ballymena attracted additional media interest because of the very welcome celebrity endorsement which it received.
But, as the media focus shifts elsewhere the reality for the community in Ballymena, for those who have recently lost their jobs and for young people in the town seeking employment is that without a strategic investment plan very little will change.
Political obligation Investment, manufacturing and job creation will not happen by chance. Nor can people rely on the private sector to provide the secure future that is required. The Assembly has a major responsibility and a political obligation to present a co-ordinated strategic investment programme designed to address the current situation and lay the ground work for future recovery.
Yet in the face of this economic crisis the three things that underpin the Assembly’s economic strategy will fail, fail and fail again.
The Assembly’s failure The Assembly is sacrificing 20,000 public sector jobs to fund the lowering corporation tax for big businesses but it cannot guarantee that one single new job will be created as a result.
The Assembly has made swinging cuts to the university and training budgets. Inward investment wants a well trained and well educated workforce. The Assembly are pulling in the opposite direction.
The Assembly continues to promote Northern Ireland as a low wage economy and is refusing to outlaw zero hours contracts.
The harsh reality for the people of Ballymena and Northern Ireland is that the Assembly’s agenda is geared to handouts to the private sector, promising low paid short term employment and cuts to education and training.
Elections to the Assembly on May 5th this year will be an opportunity for us all to pass a verdict on the the major parties and their economic priorities.