New Years Addresses are now becoming a thing that most parties here send out on New Years Eve. Here are some of the messages that our party leaders have been sending out today. (Updated with Arlene Foster address).
In her first address as DUP leader, Arlene Foster says;
The turning of another year is a time of reflection and hope. We reflect on what has passed. The decisions we made. The goals we attained and those we didn’t. We also look forward with hope at the possibilities afforded to us by another year. We set new goals and priorities for the year to come. For me this is very true in 2016.
2016 brings a massive change for my role in Northern Ireland. I want to be ambitious for the country and Party that I lead. We mustn’t limit ourselves. In the coming days, I will travel to every corner of our country. I will meet the people directly and set out my vision for the Party and for Northern Ireland.
This New Year gives an opportunity for a fresh start. Hope for a brighter and better future for all of our people is something that has been a constant theme of my time in public service. I want the DUP to go even further and be even bolder in the targets we set and the effort we put in to delivering a better Northern Ireland.
Of course my generation felt the Troubles very acutely. Some of us suffered directly. Some of us still live with the scars. Those scars show where we have been but they should not hold us back on making Northern Ireland great again. They must spur us on to rebuild a country that our children can be proud to live, work and raise their family in.
Whether it be in building an even stronger economy, or improving the public services that each and every citizen relies upon, the DUP I lead will be an agent for action and positive change.
I know that we all hope for the very best for our children. We want them to have the best education available. From their first steps on the educational journey until they enter their desired field of employment. None of us want our children to have to leave these shores in search of work. We want them to live here and contribute to the country.
That is why I am absolutely determined that no child will be left behind in the Northern Ireland that we are building. The DUP will redouble our efforts to ensure the hopes and dreams of our young people are realised and that no one is written off. In the coming year we will be announcing a range of policies designed to tackle educational underachievement. I will always defend our education system. It was that system which enabled me, the first ever in my family, to reach university. It is unimaginable that I would be where I am today without our education system. But I also want to make this a reality for the hundreds of young people whose potential is not being harnessed.
For the headline writers, 2016, in many ways, is mapped out already. From a tourism perspective its Northern Ireland’s year of food and drink. A year long celebration of our local produce. There are massive sporting events. Our sportsmen and women have already brought much pride here but I look forward to cheering with the Green and White Army in the European Championships. I then think ahead to the centenary at the Somme in France. An event which will always be remembered for the unimaginable loss of life but also the heroic efforts of Ulstermen. We will reflect too on the centenary of the Easter Rising and the role events in Dublin in 1916 had in the creation of Northern Ireland. Of course there will also be the Northern Ireland Assembly election scheduled for 5th May which will draw much of the political focus over the coming weeks and months.
Rather than mere headlines, I hope the Assembly election will be about who has the best vision to lead Northern Ireland forward. Who can best grow our economy. Who can best reform Stormont. Who can best deliver public services and who can best lead Northern Ireland.
By the end of the next Assembly term, Northern Ireland will celebrate its centenary year. By pulling together I believe we can make the first years of our second century even better than people had dared to hope for. We should not just hope for such a state-of-affairs, but rather work to make them a reality. That is my pledge to the people of Northern Ireland: I will do my all to make this country the best it can be.
I wish everyone a very Happy New Year.”
The UUP Leader, Mike Nesbitt;
2016 will be a decisive year for Northern Ireland and I wish every one of our citizens health, wealth and happiness. As we enter the final days of this Assembly mandate, I know of no one who thinks this is as good as it gets. Everyone yearns for better, after eight years of Sinn Féin/DUP led government at Stormont. I believe the Ulster Unionist Party is now in a position to deliver better and to prove it, we will publish our Alternative vision for Government for Northern Ireland early in the New Year.
“2016 will see us at our first major football finals in 30 years and I wish Northern Ireland every success at the Euro Championships in France. By then, I fervently hope Rory McIlroy has won his first Masters, to complete golf’s grand slam of major titles and that Carl Frampton has been victorious in his World super-bantamweight clash with Scott Quigg at the Manchester Arena in February, to set up a vintage year for local sport.
“The year will see the centenary of the Battle of the Somme when I shall again pay my respects at Thiepval and the Ulster Tower. It is also the centenary of the Easter Rising, an event the Ulster Unionist Party will mark by exploring the causes and consequences, one of which was the sequence of events which led to partition and the creation of Northern Ireland. Five years from our own centenary, I wish everyone a Happy New Year!”
The SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood;
“I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone the happiest of New Years. I hope the Christmas holidays have been a time of comfort, rest and family.
“Despite the barrage of rain and wind which has swept across us in recent weeks, I also hope that people can face into this New Year with a genuine sense of optimism and confidence.
“This is a particularly special New Year for the island of Ireland.
The momentous centenaries in the coming months will, very rightly, draw huge attention. Every tradition on this island must work to ensure that 2016 is a vibrant mix of celebration and commemoration.
“History always offers a choice; it can make us rigid or make us open. In this of all years, it is incumbent upon us all to make the right choice. In 2016 we should strive to avoid the narrow absolutism of a single truth.
“Ours is a complex history and we should be sensitive to those complexities. Too often the temptation remains to reach for simple certainties. History rarely provides such certainties. Politicians should avoid promoting triumphalist simplicities.
I won’t be doing it nor will my party.
“What is of true importance is that, whether commemorating those who marched on the GPO or those who marched on the fields of the Somme, they are all of them deserving of respectful remembrance. All of them.
“Those of us within Irish nationalism will obviously, in particular, remember the idealism and political heritage of Easter 1916. The birth of the modern Irish nation remains an event of deep significance, not just to the pages of Irish history but to its people.
“In essence the Rising and its aftermath were a proclamation of faith that the Irish people have the right and the freedom to govern and shape our own destiny. For me, for Irish nationalism, it is that proclamation and its faith in the authority and sovereignty of the Irish people which stands true to this very day.
“However, an open and honest history demands that there be nothing narrow about the coming year.
“There is another tradition on this island, a valuable tradition, whose perspective on Easter 1916 is very different. Unionism’s voice has every right to be heard in that commemoration and its adjacent conversation. I would urge them to use that voice.
At the turn of this New Year it is vital to map out these principles.
“Easter 1916 is not, nor should it ever be, a symbolic weapon. No politician or political party can claim ownership of the Rising, nor can a claim of ownership be made on its lessons or its legacy.
The SDLP and the year ahead
“In the midst of all the remembering though, our primary concern has to be the Ireland we now have. Ireland has had enough of political leaders who long to live in an imagined past.
“Ours is now a very different island. It is to the next 100 years that we must now look.
In the North, 2016 will see a massively important election to our Assembly in May.
It is no secret that devolved government here has failed to live up to the hopes of our people. This is true of the Unionist and Nationalist peoples alike. There is no segregation in our disappointment. We are all united by it.
“Sinn Fein and the DUP may well be hyper sensitive to this critique by other parties, but they should at least have the knowledge and humility to understand that this same criticism is merely a reflection of public belief. Boasting about stability is no longer good enough, it is right to expect more.
“Heads of government cannot credibly ask for a ‘Fresh Start’ after 9 years in office. The very idea is ridiculous and wouldn’t be credible anywhere else. It isn’t credible here. What our two First Ministers are really asking for is more of the same.
“They have failed the tests of government. They have failed to make Northern Ireland work.
“In May, the electorate will face a clear choice. The election will be a referendum on Stormont’s current leadership, it will be a referendum on their record in government.
The voters will choose whether to allow those same heads of government, to allow that same crippling frustration in our politics, to continue into a 10th year and beyond.
Or they can choose change. They can vote for the real fresh start of a Nationalist party serious about the business of government, not just serious about the symbolism of government.
“That party will be the SDLP. That’s the alternative we will be offering.
“I am conscious that at times my own party has fallen short in measuring up to this standard of trust and confidence. That changes now.
“The SDLP is a party which feels good about itself again, full of new people and new ideas.
“In the coming weeks, I will be unveiling the SDLP team which will attempt to win back the trust of the public. We’ll be unveiling our manifesto and offering it up to public scrutiny. We’ll be outlining what priorities we will pursue. We’ll be showing what we’d do differently.
“That’s what proper politics is about. It is the kind of politics that I’m determined this New Year will bring.”
Then we have the Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams;
The year ahead marks the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. This should be a time for national renewal, hope, and political progress across Ireland.
“The 1916 Proclamation is a clear statement of intent for an all-Ireland republic built on foundations of civil and religious liberty, social justice and equality for all citizens. It remains the guiding template for modern republicanism.
“The promise of the Proclamation has yet to be realised. Ireland remains partitioned and a real republic, built on equality for all citizens, remains to be constructed.
“The Centenary year is a unique opportunity to begin the work of positively transforming Irish politics and society, to reflect the revolutionary vision of Easter Week.
“2016 is also an election year, North and South. Sinn Féin will stand candidates on a progressive republican and anti-austerity platform across this island.
“In the South, citizens will have an important opportunity to get rid of this bad Fine Gael/Labour Government whose tenure has been marked by destructive austerity policies which have deepened social inequality.
“Sinn Féin is committed to delivering a fair recovery by working towards a progressive, republican government.
“In the North, we will continue to stand up for working families, vulnerable citizens and the development of the economy and public services.
“The recent Fresh Start Agreement allows the political process and institutions to proceed on a new and stable basis.
“Sinn Féin is committed to resolving the issues of the past, supporting victims of the conflict and promoting reconciliation and healing.
“We will continue to campaign for the return of more political powers and economic levers from London to the island of Ireland.
“However, the greatest safeguard against Tory misrule in the North is the peaceful ending of Partition and the building of an agreed, united Ireland a real republic.
“In this important year, working together, the people of Ireland can make important steps towards a genuine republic and a citizen-centred, rights based society.
“I wish you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year. Bliain úr faoi mhaise daoibh go léir.”
The TUV Leader, Jim Allister said;
As one year closes and another opens up it is an appropriate time to look both back and forward.
2015 was another year of dysfunctional failure by the Stormont executive as it lurched from crisis to crisis. Nothing new there, you might think. But, 2015 will go down as the year of the DUP’s greatest rollover yet in face of IRA/Sinn Fein.
The IRA murdered again; the Government Panel confirmed the continued existence not just of the still armed IRA but its wicked Army Council, controlling both the IRA and Sinn Fein. Yet, the instant response of the DUP was to renew their vows with Sinn Fein in government and commit themselves to a “fresh start” with terrorists in government. What a shameless climbdown!
In 2016, however, we all have the opportunity to do something about it. 5th May is that day of opportunity. At the polls you can demonstrate such pandering to Sinn Fein is not in your name. By voting TUV you will send out that message loud and clear.
With the present structures incapable of working it is time to sweep aside the debris of failure and seek devolution that is durable and workable. Any system of government to survive must embrace, not negate, the basic democratic imperatives, which apply everywhere except Northern Ireland:-
*the right of voters to change their government;
*the imperative of having an Opposition.
Because the present Stormont system of mandatory coalition denies both, it can never succeed. Only a coalition of the willing and a vibrant Opposition will bring stability to government. This is TUV’s positive vision.
If you want more of the same failure at Stormont, then vote again for the parties that have brought you the present shambles – you get what you vote for! But, if you want change, real change, and an effective voice, then commit to voting TUV. We need your support to make the difference.
There is no point is saying “Jim Allister is doing a great job”, unless you vote for my TUV candidates. Make that your new year resolution for 2016. Let’s together – while others celebrate the grubby rebellion of 1916 – make 2016 the year of uprising at the polls against Sinn Fein and the failure they and their partners have brought to Stormont.
Finally, it may be that this year David Cameron’s feeble and empty negotiations with the EU will result in an In/Out referendum. Whenever it comes TUV will campaign hard for a British exit, anxious to free our nation from the shackles of Brussels and see us restored to having sovereign control over our own borders, immigration and trade.
TUV wishes all a happy and peaceful New Year.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs