Eastwood: Progress on cultural package welcome but Executive needs to start delivering

The SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood MP, has welcomed a commitment from the Secretary of State to take forward legislation on the New Decade New Approach cultural package.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 11:55 am
Foyle MP, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood.
Foyle MP, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood.

The Secretary of State for NI, Brandon Lewis, has said he will introduce the legislation if the DUP and Sinn Féin are unable to resolve the situation by Autumn.

The Foyle MP said that the Executive’s failure to implement commitments in NDNA is deeply concerning, has undermined public confidence devolution and will force parties to reflect seriously on what happens next.

Colum Eastwood MP said that it is regrettable that neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin appear to have secured progress on waiting list funding, additional resource for school places or any other NDNA commitments during what have been described as ‘intensive negotiations’.

Colum Eastwood MP said: “I welcome the commitment from the Secretary of State to legislate on the NDNA cultural package in the Autumn if the DUP and Sinn Féin have failed to resolve their differences. The truth is, however, that we should never have been in this position.

“The DUP and Sinn Féin need to grow up and faithfully take forward the commitments they made when they agreed to restore devolved government on the basis of New Decade New Approach. That means all of the commitments including addressing the waiting list crisis, expanding higher education and providing new jobs for all our communities.”

Mr Eastwood said that thhe SDLP ‘will be vigilant at Westminster’ to ensure the commitment to introduce the legislation is honoured.

He added: “I am disappointed that during what we are told were ‘intensive negotiations’ that there appears to have been no progress on, or even mention of, funding hospital waiting lists, addressing the challenges of the protocol or investing in the North’s economy at a turbulent time.

“If we’re serious about transforming this place, we need to get real about addressing those challenges. I have seen very little evidence that the DUP and Sinn Féin led Executive is going to prioritise any of those issues.

“We all made a serious commitment to people when we entered the Executive last year. It was on the basis of agreement to fully and faithfully address health waiting lists, expansion of higher education, good quality housing for everyone and all of the other NDNA commitments,” Mr Eastwood said.

“The failure to engage with those responsibilities is unsustainable and it will force parties to seriously reflect on what is possible in this Executive in the time ahead.”