Sinn Fein went for the minimalist approach towards their 2016 Assembly manifesto with a list of simple pledges that they hope will be enough to secure a third term in office and remain the largest Nationalist party.
The party went to Derry to launch their manifesto, with Chris Hazzard, Martin McGuinness and Maeve McLaughlin speaking to the media and party supporters.
Some interesting points that grab the reader, the manifesto is equally divided between what Sinn Fein has done in government so far and what it plans to do in the next mandate. Like the UTV debate, it appears that the party is going into a third term doing more to own parts of their record in government as this manifesto is peppered with policies that were agreed in the Fresh Start agreement.
Arlene has five points, Sinn Fein have ten for the next Assembly mandate with the economy as the top priority. Perhaps this is a sign that the party are thinking about taking an economic portfolio this time as some of the issues that the party have been identified with in the past are further down the pecking order.
Like the DUP, the party makes an expensive £1 billion promise to increase health spending. They are following this up with another increase in Childcare funding coming to £525 million, £500 million for Welfare (though this is already budgeted for in the Fresh Start Agreement). There is also a £6 billion pledge to improve infrastructure such as roads and other transport services.
Much like the other party manifestos, there is no mention of where this money comes from in the great bulk of spending commitments. However the manifesto goes beyond the ten points in the latter sections of the document.
The one department that we know Sinn Fein and the DUP will take up will be the new Executive Officer (formerly Office of First and Deputy First Minister). Again the party specifies in the Programme for Government an emphasis on economic growth and improving public services.
There is also some ideas in order to secure buy in to the policy-making process from groups like the Pensioners Parliament and Neighbourhood partnerships.
What might cause issues is the need to review all Quangos which when it reports might ruffle some feathers in certain quarters.
Economy and other related aspects
In the next mandate, Sinn Fein will seek the devolution of income tax, national insurance and other duties to the Northern Assembly. Though it does not say what it would do with these powers, if they were devolved to Northern Ireland.
There are also policies to tackle the issue of empty properties with a reduction of rates relief for empty properties.
On job creation, the party has set out a higher target than the DUP with a pledge to create 50,000 jobs. Following this up is a pledge to deliver an affordable and harmonised tax by 2018. Martin McGuinness reaffirmed today his belief that he believes cutting Corporation Tax would be affordable and I am assuming that this policy feeds into the party’s job creation figures.
They are also committed to some big infrastructure projects such as the A5/6 and the completion of the Rapid Transport System which will go into the party’s West Belfast constituency.
Communities and Policing
Sinn Fein have pledged to build a minimum of 10,000 new social and affordable homes over the next five years. This is alongside an anti-poverty strategy and the strengthening of disability legislation.
In policing, the party have committed to ring fencing front line police budgets and to promote representation within the PSNI in regards to gender and community background. They have also made a commitment to fight to protect the Legal Aid budget.
I found this manifesto to be minimalist, perhaps not wanting to make a mistake of putting in extensive amount of detail, Sinn Fein have set out broad themes with a direction of travel, rather than a beefy policy document with everything but the kitchen sink in it. Although has Mick has noted, maybe politically that is not a bad strategy.
For me, I found the party leaning in an economic direction, which gives some insight into which department they will go for after the election. Although like the DUP, the party is making some broad pledges with little specifics as to how it is all paid for as one package. Maybe the pitch is an Executive that will under promise in some aspects, but over-deliver in others.
This manifesto is very much about steady as she goes, lacking some of meat that was present in its election manifesto in the South.