Derry DUP grandee Willie Hay says return of Stormont will not solve crises in health and education

Willie Hay has said the return of Stormont will not resolve the crises in health and education in the North but declared local ministers are needed to start addressing the 'critical mess' some of our public services are in.

Speaking in the British House of Lords on Tuesday night, the cross-bench peer said: "I believe there is a notion across Northern Ireland that with the Assembly up and running all the ills in Northern Ireland will be solved.

William Hay in the House of Lords this week.

William Hay in the House of Lords this week.

"That will not be the case, but it would certainly help if we had local Ministers in charge taking local decisions on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland. Let us hope that these talks are successful as we move forward over the next couple of days."

The DUP grandee, who is now known as Lord Hay of Ballyore, said all political parties wanted to see the devolved institutions restored and that people had a right to be angry and frustrated at the absence of an Executive.

"We have only to look at our health service, which is in a critical mess. We have health workers - thousands of them - coming out on to the streets because of the whole issue around the imbalance of pay between NI and the rest of the UK.

"Our education system is suffering greatly. We have only to speak to our educationalists across Northern Ireland, to speak to many of our principals and schools and colleges, to learn that all their budgets are in the red by thousands and thousands of pounds. It is so bad in education that schools cannot afford even to buy toilet rolls. They expect the parents of children at these colleges and schools to pay some money towards resources. This just cannot continue," he added.

The former Assembly Speaker said suicide rates in the North were unacceptably high.

"One area where there is severe suffering is mental health provision. More people have died since the Troubles through suicide than died during the Troubles.

"That figure is a dramatic but true representation of what is happening to mental health in Northern Ireland. We urgently need more investment in mental health. NI has a much higher need than the average across the UK and the need is certainly growing," he remarked.

Ian Duncan, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), or Lord Duncan, agreed some of the key health indicators in the North were "ghastly" and would not be tolerated in Britain.

"On the wider issues of health and health provision, education and education provision, and social provision, as I have said before and as noble Lords have echoed this evening, the statistics in NI are ghastly.

"They are dreadful. Nobody else would tolerate that; I am shocked that Northern Ireland does. It is only because of the absence of an Executive and an Assembly, where these things can be debated with the anger they richly deserve, that they have gone unaddressed for so long.

"That cannot go on. After the point when we have an election, whatever follows thereafter, this will need to be a priority for any incoming Executive or any responsible Government taking action in this area.

"That will require funding. It will require sensible administration. It will require action and it will require urgency. All those things will need to be delivered, I believe, in the first half of this year," he said.