NIWC 2001 Westminster General Election Manifesto - Still on the Right Path
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Northern Ireland Women's Coalition (NIWC) 2001 Westminster General Election Manifesto
Northern Ireland is finally in the business of building bridges. The Belfast Agreement signposted the way, and we are still on the right path - we have seen more inward investment resulting in more jobs; locally elected representatives dealing with local issues, co-operating for people on health, education, the environment and economic matters. There is however much still to be done and we acknowledge that there are frustrations that the pace and scope of change is less than it might have been.
Our vision remains clear.
§ We want to build a country where diversity is celebrated, not feared, where everyone has equal rights and access to services, where people hope, dream and plan for their futures, not lead lives governed by fear, suspicion and uncertainty.
§ We want freedom and security to be guaranteed, and access to high standards of healthcare, education and working conditions to be seen as rights for all, and not privileges for a few.
§ We want to build a Northern Ireland to which all its citizens can feel allegiance, participate equally in a stable and prosperous society, underscored by social justice and human rights.
We have been working hard to see this vision realised - now is the time to build on the progress that has been made.
We're on the right path - it's time to travel even further towards prosperity and stability.
After the Agreement, many powers were devolved
to local politicians, but there are some powers for which Westminster
MPs still have responsibility. Importantly these include policing,
human rights, criminal justice issues, taxation, social security
and anti-poverty issues. We believe that all parties should be clear
about where they stand on these issues.
We recognise that we have to get policing right, because if we do not then any changes will not be sustainable. We need real accountability and open and transparent structures. The Policing Board is one place where accountability can happen. But there are others, most notably the uniquely powerful Police Ombudsman which will have powers to pursue complaints and conduct investigations. Politicians, in any event, should not be involved in the operational side of policing. At ground level we support the quota system as being a further key mechanism to ensuring accountability. We recommend that young Nationalists and women sign up for the new service now.
We believe that
¨ The Policing Board membership should reflect a community and gender balance.
¨ A whole range of agencies should share responsibility for public order, not just the police. Communities need to be empowered to problem-solve with a range of agencies, including the police. Any such partnerships should be meaningful, and involve real access to decision making. Capacity building and training for community people should be available and resourced from the policing budget.
¨ The number of situations where the police service is routinely unarmed, for instance as is the case with some domestic violence liaison projects, should be extended to other types of operation.
¨ The 'Dunblane' Legislation on small firearms should be extended to Northern Ireland
¨ A gender quota - more women in the service would lead to a real culture change. Women need to constitute at least one third of the service if they are not to be a token of their gender or excluded because of it. Any new service cannot simply ape the old in terms of the macho culture.
¨ A policy of civilianisation where possible in the service should be pursued. A greater number of civilians will also help change the culture.
¨ The use of plastic baton rounds should be
Our proposal for a Bill of Rights include:
¨ An equality statement pertaining to women
and men specifically
The Bill of Rights should constitute an amendment
to the current Human Rights Act, with the preamble, or interpretative
clause governing the entire document. We believe also that a strong
limitations clause should be complemented by a special constitutional
court for Human Rights adjudication. The introduction of a Bill
of Rights requires a fresh approach by a court not burdened with
the procedure and conventions of a system ill equipped to adjudicate
on the human rights issues that surface as the law acquires new
competence and recognises new state responsibilities. The court
needs to be the mechanism, upon implementing the Bill of Rights,
for exploring and ensuring the intent and meaning of the provisions
We believe that:
¨ A reformed Criminal Justice system must have at its heart a human rights ethos, which should be legislatively enforceable.
¨ The court system should be accessible in every sense, to those who are using it - be that as accused or as defence or prosecution witness. There must be particular measures to deal with young people and the court system.
¨ The system of judicial appointments needs to take account of the lack of women in senior positions and address this shortcoming. The principle of merit in appointing should be followed by an independent Judicial Appointments Committee. This must be an open and transparent system. Using a different interpretation of the length of service criterion will be helpful in widening the recruitment pool.
¨ A new independent prosecution service should be established, and this body has responsibility for all prosecutions in NI and that there should be an obligation on the prosecutor to investigate fully allegations of police malpractice.
¨ A programme to ensure that the judiciary reflects both community background and gender should be implemented.
¨ Restorative justice measures should be integrated into the juvenile justice system, focusing on rehabilitating the offender and repairing fractured relationships.
¨ The age of criminal responsibility in NI - currently 10 years - should be raised. 10-13 year olds should be kept out of the juvenile custodial system, and, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, that those under 18 are to be regarded as children, that 17 year olds should be brought under the aegis of the youth courts. Care for children should be consistent.
¨ Appropriate ratios of male and female prison officers at Maghaberry should be maintained and prison officers should be properly trained in managing female inmates.
¨ A code of practice should be written to deal with victims. It should ensure that they are informed and consulted through the process of their case, and should clarify whose responsibility -the police, the prosecution or probation - it is to keep victims informed at a particular time
¨ Victims' advocates should be introduced. Victims desperately need this service. Victim Support's pilot project, initially for the Belfast courts and now extended to others, has been successful. It is clearly a much-needed initiative that requires sustained funding. We note that NSPCC also offers specialised support to child witnesses.
¨ Criminal Justice matters should be devolved
to Northern Ireland and a single Department of Justice should be
The Assembly has responsibility for matters relating
to our health, our education, and the economy. Below, we outline
our policies in these areas.
We believe that
¨ A comprehensive, co-educational, integrated or non-denominational system of education based on equality of opportunity and excellence should be introduced. This system will encourage young people to value themselves and others, tolerate and value difference, and develop their ability to contribute to a more confident, pluralist and compassionate society.
¨ All children should be guaranteed a place at their local/neighbourhood comprehensive secondary school. Parents and local communities should be given a genuine opportunity to choose between segregated or shared second level educational provision.
¨ Children and society in general benefit when a child has had the advantages of good, well-provisioned nursery education with appropriately qualified staff. Thus, nursery school provision from ages 3-6 should be extended, and primary school should be available for all children from 6 years, finishing at 11 or 12 years.
¨ A Parent, Teacher and Child Council should be set up for Northern Ireland. This Council should be consulted on education matters enabling parent's teachers and children to play an active part in debates and decision-making on education. Money to fund such a Council should be made available from the education budget.
¨ The needs of Travelling Children and children from Ethnic minorities should be incorporated into Education strategy.
¨ Children with Special Educational Needs should be prioritised within the education system.
¨ Integrated education should be promoted and supported financially.
¨ Provision for student assistance must be made for further and higher education. Tuition fees should be abolished, grant levels restored to living levels, and the threshold for loan repayment raised to £25,000.
¨ We are opposed to the use of Private Finance
Initiatives for building schools
We believe the priorities for health should be
¨ Establishing a Junior Minister for Environmental Protection and Public Health. Public health cannot be separated from the effects of social welfare and economic policies. A minister with combined responsibilities for environmental protection and public health would assess the effect of all public policies on health and the environment as well as driving the public health agenda forward. Food safety, the impact of industrial development and hazardous waste disposal, and the effects of biotechnology on food crops would fall under the remit of this department.
¨ Creating a new purpose built Women-Centred Maternity Hospital for the Belfast Region
¨ Devising a Regional Maternity Strategy that takes account of the important role of midwives in the caring and delivery process.
¨ More nurse led minor injuries units need to be established, shortening waiting times in A & E departments.
¨ Greater provision for rehabilitative services following acute care, in co-operation with the PAMs [Professionals Allied to Medicine] Group and community health workers.
¨ Greater resources must be devoted to new technology and developments in telemedicine. All medical personnel, including nurses should be trained in their use.
¨ NHS Direct should be extended to Northern Ireland. People here should be given access to this successful 24-hour nurse-led telephone service.
¨ Community health initiatives should be encouraged and given greater resources.
¨ Community paediatric services should be improved, as should school health services.
¨ A more pro-active approach needs to be taken to prevent accidents.
¨ Urgent investment in the provision of child and adolescent mental health services is essential to combat the growing problems of substance abuse, suicide, mental illness and eating disorders amongst adolescents and young adults.
¨ Mixed sex accommodation in mental health units should be stopped immediately.
¨ A regional 'medium secure' prison unit and an adequately resourced, proper community based mental health Outreach service, must be established urgently in Northern Ireland. Recognition of the specific health needs of the prison population must be made and appropriate services designed.
¨ Specific programmes need to be developed to treat children with autism.
¨ Urgently address the extension of new clinically approved drugs for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, and cease the practice of allocating 'drugs by postcode.'
¨ Increase the rate of upgrade payments to nursing homes from 3.5% to 5.07%.
¨ Nursing care should be free and available to older people requiring long term care.
¨ Screening for breast, ovarian and cervical cancers must be more widely available. There needs to be stronger promotion of screening programmes and self-help projects for women diagnosed with cancer. There should also be simultaneous provision for breast reconstruction for women undergoing mastectomies.
¨ Greater emphasis needs to be placed on screening for cancers and ill health in the male population, including coronary artery disease.
¨ An urgent campaign concerning the promotion of sexual health and the prevention of teenage pregnancies. Peer education projects should be supported in this area.
¨ The Local Health & Social Care Groups must be established to reflect not only the key professionals, but of all of those working within the service environment. The balance of representation should reflect the business services at local level. Local Health & Social Care Groups may be more effective if they contained sub-structures below Management Board level that could be established on either a geographical or task basis and would promote the involvement of the primary care professionals.
¨ Recognition and promotion of the role of Complimentary Medicine is essential to ensure that complete and comprehensive treatment is provided to all within the area of primary care.
¨ Education of the general community in self-help and the holistic approach to overall well being must be encouraged in an effort to reduce the need of traditional medicine.
¨ A commitment to working for a situation where women have greater control over their lives so that fewer are faced with unwanted pregnancies. We need much more extensive, effective and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education, accessible contraception. We believe that these policies will reduce the need for abortions, but we also need to acknowledge and provide for that option for women who feel they need to pursue it.
¨ The needs of carers must be recognised and addressed. There should be a Carer's Charter
¨ State provision should be made for long
term care of the elderly
The region must achieve a level of sustainable growth which benefits all its citizens, through the eradication of poverty as well as social and geographical inequality. Northern Ireland must also make greater use of its excellent reputation in the area of textiles and marine technology and build on its clean, green environment through a focus on tourism and the farming industry. Our wealth of young talent, many of whom are finally choosing to return home, should be encouraged to help give back to the region all that has been lost.
Specifically our priorities are:
¨ More clean, green production methods, including the use of alternative and renewable energy, energy efficiency, the polluter pays policy and incentives for waste management and recycling.
¨ Focused R&D strategies to support the development of new technology industries designed to enhance environmental protection and reduce global warming
¨ Increased focus on the recruitment and promotion
of women in employment, including targeted training, workplace crèche
facilities, increased access to job-share, as well as family friendly
and flexible working hours.
¨ Set targets and timetables for the promotion of women into senior civil service positions.
¨ A minimum living wage of £5/hour to tackle the issue of low pay
¨ Incentives to encourage 'social responsibility'
in business and industry, with regard to its employment practices,
its contribution to local communities and the environment, and its
approach to trade with developing countries.
¨ Greater support should be given to those areas of industrial development, which contribute to the good health of society such as life/health technologies.
¨ That traditional industries, such as textiles and shipbuilding, be restructured to develop their potential as modern industries competing on the global market-place.
¨ Tax exemption for artists, craftspeople
and the creative industries in Northern Ireland as a means of fostering
the economic, social and cultural benefit of these activities.
¨ A strategic approach to the generation and
distribution of energy on the island of Ireland and within the British
Isles with regular meetings of Energy Ministers to provide for increased
¨ A massive injection of funding in transport
infrastructure, particularly railways, in Northern Ireland to bring
it into line with the needs of a modern world class economy
¨ A detailed study of the impact on Northern
Ireland business of the arrival of the Single Currency in the Republic,
including recommendations to help local traders overcome any detrimental
effects arising from their proximity to, and location outside, the
¨ Greater accountability in EU Funding and
guarantees of additionality to ensure support is not being used
to fill gaps caused to core funding. We will monitor closely the
commitment to ensure EU funds are, first and foremost, used to cement
peace and reconciliation in the region.
We therefore propose to
¨ Encourage development that solves current
housing, transportation and environment problem, rather than creating
¨ Require the Planning Service to extend neighbour notification on all developments over 20 accommodation units or in the case of shopping or commercials developments. The current system is very limited and does not enable those most affected to be informed.
¨ A moratorium on the M1 Westlink development until the Road Transportation Strategy is agreed.
¨ Connecting strategies in planning and transport and allocating resources to ensure that community development and transport reform complement each other.
¨ Locating housing principally within existing urban areas, planning for increased density of development for housing and commercial uses which are highly accessible by public transport, walking and cycling.
¨ Seeking to reduce crime and the fear of crime by designing new developments in ways which promote community and road safety.
¨ Increasing the number of park and ride services.
¨ Researching alternative transportation like trams, light rail, and promoting cycling and pedestrian routes
¨ Introducing more traffic calming measures particularly in areas where there are families and large numbers of children living
¨ Integrating bus and rail facilities
Our plans for addressing these issues include:
¨ Facilitating discussion about promoting and protecting mixed housing schemes - not just in terms of religion, but also class.
¨ Establishing issue based community forums between different communities in the same area
¨ Lobbying for mainstream funding to community groups so that they can develop properly without the continual threat of closure or job loss
¨ Creating space to understand the other communities better - be they based on religion or ethnic origin, perhaps with local history programmes, exhibits, events and discussions in a positive and safe environment
¨ Economic development strategies that benefit
women as well as men
¨ The Winter Fuel Allowance should be maintained
and the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act should be enforced.
¨ An urgently agreed co-ordinated approach to dealing with the needs of victims, one that includes representatives of victims, health and educational professionals, supported by political representatives.
¨ The development of a Victims Strategy between statutory bodies, funding agencies and the voluntary sector, including victims groups.
¨ Resourcing of more research into the effects of violence on our community.
¨ Support for community projects that deal with victims of violence.
¨ Access to information for individual victims not affiliated to groups. This could be provided by local branches of the Citizen's Advice Bureaux, who should be publicly funded for this work.
¨ A review of legislation regarding those victims who are prohibited from claiming compensation
¨ Specialist training for health professionals
and counsellors in dealing with trauma and other victims issues
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