During a debate about the Shared Future strategy, the UUP challenged the Alliance party on the potential £1bn savings from tackling segregation. They demanded to know specifically what Alliance proposes to cut or close. Paisley Snr also moved to deal with the fallout from SF’s defeated equality motion and the Hot Press interview.David Burnside and Basil McCrea both wanted Alliance to get down to specifics and name what they would close. McCrea claimed that some 70% of the £1bn are actually labour costs, much of which would still be incurred in a shared facility. Alliance’s Naomi Long accepted that:
“I do not suggest that that is a simple calculation and that the money can be extracted in the blink of an eye.”
However, this is not how Kieran McCarthy presented the situation over free personal care for the elderly:
“If the Executive worked to end segregation now, we could provide free care very quickly instead of waiting for years, like the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey wants us to.”
Nor Stephen Farry in the debate:
“The Alliance Party, in its election manifesto, stated that £1 billion was being wasted annually in managing Northern Ireland’s divided society, which does not allow us to invest in the quality changes in public services that the people of this country demand. If the will is there, the money is available to address the inefficient way in which services are delivered and to find a new way forward.”
The Politics show focused on the costs of segregation on Sunday. It appears an upcoming report will confirm the headline figure of £1 billion but will add the caveat that the costs of establishing new shared facilities will reduce the savings.
Meanwhile, First Minister Ian Paisley Snr, outlined a strong commitment on equality:
I shall preface those responses by saying that the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) is totally committed to promoting equality and human rights. The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister are completely opposed to any form of discrimination or harassment against any citizen, and so are all in their Office and under them.