Meet ‘the Panel’…

The Press Association is running a series called The Panel, something we are keen to replication on our Slugger Radio productions. They have brought together a panel of policy experts who are “drawn from policy areas which will become key battleground issues during next month’s Assembly Election. As voters look beyond the constitutional debate which has dominated politics, our five experts will cast a critical eye over what the party manifestos have to say on health, education, the economy, crime and the environment”. They are:

HEALTH: Mary Hinds, the director of the Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland which represents almost 13,000 nurses. A nurse for almost 29 years, she is a former director of nursing at Belfast’s Mater Hospital.

EDUCATION: Anne Moran, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ulster. She is a former head of education at the university.

ECONOMY: Fergal McCormack, managing partner of FPM Chartered Accountants in Newry in 1990. He is a member of the board of InterTradeIreland, secretary of Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade, a past chairman of the Ulster Society of Chartered Accountants and served on the Industrial Development Board.

CRIME: Suneil Sharma, an independent member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board. A property developer, he is a former Commissioner with the Commission for Racial Equality, a founding member of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities and is currently a director of the Portadown-based Preparing for Post Conflict Trust.

ENVIRONMENT: Shirley Lewis, aka “The Bag Lady”, has made it her goal to get rid of the 500 million plastic bags misused every year in Northern Ireland. A native of Ballymena, she spent 30 years living in Sydney before returning to Northern Ireland and recently received Environment and Heritage Service funding for a 16-month campaign.

On the eve of the first election manifesto launch, The Panel gave its view on their hopes for the election.

MARY HINDS (HEALTH): “The first thing that is essential is that we get devolved government. You can see talking to colleagues in Scotland and Wales that devolution there has given a huge lift to nurses, to other health professionals and to patients. It would have the same effect here.

“I would like to see a focus on public health and in particular on policies which are going to improve people’s health and well-being. Addressing those lifestyle issues will have a major impact.
“There has been huge progress on tackling smoking but we need to address alcohol and also mental health, especially those issues affecting the old and young.
“We need more nurses in our health service but we would also like to see nurses involved at every level from the hospital bed to the boardroom.”

ANNE MORAN (EDUCATION): “There needs to be more co-operation between grammar and secondary schools and across the religious divide. We have the restructuring of the education systems and I would like to see some consensus on what a single education authority will do. What we would like to see is a level of political consensus across the political parties. One of my fears is that political differences could affect the quality of children’s education.”

FEARGAL McCORMACK (ECONOMY): “My hope is that all the parties will put the economy high on their agenda. If they are going to make the step change to devolved government, we need a major injection of enterprise culture. We are going to have to encourage those who are creating wealth to put it back into the economy. Taking a look across the border, it is clear that wealth creation is key to
everything else.”

SUNEIL SHARMA (CRIME): “We’ve been dealing with the past which in many ways was brutal. But we have to look forward and it isn’t just about policing. There is such a broad range of issues: health, education, and especially the future of our children is what we should be focusing on. Will we have everything in place at Stormont at the appointed time? That is the 64,000 dollar question. There will be much despair if there are any more lengthy delays, but I would be optimistic.”

SHIRLEY LEWIS (ENVIRONMENT): “We face a massive environmental challenge here in Northern Ireland. Our very future is in doubt. The people we elect must be able to put aside old arguments and do their job, look after this beautiful place and its people.”

  • critical

    They look an impressive panel with the exception of the lady who is doing the environmental stuff…with excellent organisations in Northern Ireland such as the Northern Ireland Environment Link amongst others, I am mysterified why they have used a fairly anonymous lady.

  • Po

    Any news on the Panel’s view of the UUP Manifesto published today?

    They’ve just put it up on their website (http://www.uupforallofus.org/uup_manifesto2007.pdf) – looks like a very meaty document compared with the usual style of manifesto here.

    Just had a quick look through it, lots of focus on socio-economic issues and seems very centre-ground. I wonder how the strategy of focussing on ‘bread-and-butter’ issues will work out for them?

    It’ll be interesting to see the other manifestos next week and to get an informed, objective view on all the manifestos this time around!

  • parcifal

    Our panel:

    ON questions that might relate to the following:

    MI5 ………………Martin Ingram
    Direct Rule Ministers … Peter Baker
    Repartition ……….Greenflag
    SF doublespeak …… Henry94
    DUP doublespeak ……Fair-Deal

  • heck

    ANNE MORAN (EDUCATION): “There needs to be more co-operation between grammar and secondary schools and across the religious divide. We have the restructuring of the education systems and I would like to see some consensus on what a single education authority will do. What we would like to see is a level of political consensus across the political parties. One of my fears is that political differences could affect the quality of children’s education”

    how can an expert comment on education in Nor Iron and not mention the 11+, or selection, or no selection??? That seems to be the main issue which has unfortunately slit along secterian rather than class lines.

    and I would add seperation based in sex

    this comment seems to be “moderate pablum”

  • Dr Who

    The PA panel have released their response to the UUP manifesto – broadly positive, especially the section on Health – Looks like the “bright young” Dr Weir has some work to do!

  • One bunch of public sector parasites and quangophiles AND chasing another set. LOL!

  • Henry94

    The south solved its plastic bag problem by introducing a charge for them. Clearly a united Ireland is the solution.

  • Rory

    I see that your expert on crime is one Suneil Sharma, a member of the NI Policing Board. Surely she is opposed to crime. Would it not be more appropriate to have an experienced criminal on board to point out the way forward for Northern Ireland crime in the 21st century?

    I am sure that we have nothing to be ashamed of in the quality of Ulster criminality and that our crooks can hold their heads up (or perhaps keep their heads covered) along with the best crims in the world.

  • Henry94

    Rory

    It would make as much sense as having a nurse telling us how wonderful the system should be for nurses rather than patients.

  • Rory

    Still it’s good to see a Chartered Accountant as our man on economics. That way we at least can be sure that the issue will not be clouded by such minor details as the plight of human beings struggling for meaning and fulfillment within the economic system.