From Gavin Robinson MP <[email protected]>
Subject A plan for Northern Ireland
Date April 13, 2024 6:59 AM
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Good morning John

This week I have been in Mid Ulster, North Antrim and Lagan Valley outlining my plan for Northern Ireland. This place we call home is unrecognisable from what it was when I was growing up.

It is common now that as we drive by the shipyard in Belfast, there are skyscraper style cruise ships docked with passengers disembarking on to buses to go all over Northern Ireland for a daytrip. Indeed, almost every time I drive into the Stormont Estate, I see tourists clambering over Sir Edward Carson’s statue angling for the perfect selfie. From time to time, I get to speak with them. There will be people from Asia, North and South America, Australia, and all over Europe.

These daily realities are another indicator that Northern Ireland is moving forward. Things are far from perfect, but the dark days of the 80s are a different world in the minds of the young people who will vote for the first time in the next General Election.

I am in the business of building on these foundations because I believe a prosperous Northern Ireland is not only good for the people who live and work here but will ultimately sustain Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.

Whilst we are attracting investors to Northern Ireland and we are supporting innovation so new products are designed and built here, we must also provide for our greatest asset – our talented people.

That’s why I have been focused in recent years on securing a better deal for working parents on childcare. That means a school system that provides homework and breakfast clubs as well as a pre-school sector which can meet the needs of parents. Last year the Office for Budget Responsibility identified that the Government’s decision to boost childcare access would have a greater impact on GDP going forward than any other fiscal policy measure since 2010.

By enabling parents to hold down a job, we help our economy grow and Northern Ireland become more prosperous. We will keep pressing the Government to:

1. massively increase the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme from the current 20%.

2. explore making childcare costs tax deductible.

In Stormont the Education Minister, our colleague Paul Givan MLA, has made childcare a top priority and is exploring options which could help both the childcare sector and working parents struggling with costs.

The DUP has put affordable and accessible childcare on the Stormont agenda and I can assure you we will not rest until there is a better system in place for working families in Northern Ireland.

When you have a plan for Northern Ireland, it means you are not buffeted by the latest headline but rather you focus on what matters. I am focused on real issues which will shape the kind of Northern Ireland our children grow up in.

Next week we are back in Parliament. I will be in front of a Bill Committee on Wednesday morning where I will outline why I am seeking to change the law so people, like our colleague Lord Hay, who were born in the Republic of Ireland, should be able to have access to a British passport.

I want the British Citizenship (Northern Ireland) Bill 2023-24 ([link removed]) to make it easier for all Irish citizens living across the UK to acquire British citizenship by registration after five years’ residence without having to sit a citizenship test and pay a hefty fee. After all, people born in Northern Ireland can have an Irish passport. This needed rebalanced.

Next week, I will also be addressing the Newry & Armagh DUP Association and our members and supporters in Londonderry.

No matter where I travel in the country, I get the unity of purpose to make Northern Ireland work and keep moving forward and it is appreciated.

As I write this however, I am watching the reports coming from the court where the families connected with the Kingsmill Massacre will enter the court for the last day of the inquest into that horrific, sectarian, and cruel act of terrorism.

I will never allow a rewriting of history by those who supported terrorism. We must always stand firmly with innocent victims and defend their access to justice and ensure those who say there ‘was no alternative’ are firmly and robustly challenged. There was always an alternative to shooting innocent workmen.

I understand there will be many views on how we deal with the past, but a victim’s access to justice is fundamental. As a teenager, I joined the DUP because I knew that releasing terrorists from our prisons was morally wrong whilst thousands of victims were never to see justice served.

I am amazed when I see people in Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Republic of Ireland criticise the Legacy Bill yet they were silent about Get Out of Jail Free letters and the early release of terrorists convicted of the most heinous of crimes. The DUP has consistently stood firm with those who support law and order.

Thank you again for yourcontinued support.

Gavin Robinson MP

Democratic Unionist Party

Interim Leader

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has organised a petition calling for Baby Loss Certificates ([link removed]) to be introduced in Northern Ireland, bringing us into line with England.

You can sign the petition here ([link removed]) .

Also this week:

Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly spoke with the new Taoiseach Simon Harris and emphasised the need to respect the careful balance of arrangements in Northern Ireland and to rebuild relationships that have been damaged over the last number of years with unionism.

She also welcomed the Princess Royal to the Harbour Commissioners office inBelfast for a maritime event.

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons met with North West 200 chief Mervyn White and former Moto GP rider Jeremy McWilliams to discuss next month’s event on the north coast.

Education Minister Paul Givan welcomed the acceptance by Northern Ireland’s five main teaching unions of a formal offer on teachers pay ([link removed]) for 2021, 2022 and 2023. It includes a rise in starting salary for teachers in Northern Ireland to £30,000.

Chair of the Infrastructure Committee Deborah Erskine highlighted confirmation from the Infrastructure Minister that it would be at least 11 years before works to the Westlink / York Street interchange ([link removed]) would be completed. She said the delays raised significant questions about both the will and the ability to deliver major infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland.

Chair of the Justice Committee Joanne Bunting attended the announcement of judgement in the Kingsmill Inquest ([link removed]) . There was always an alternative to the sectarian murder of innocent people at Kingsmill. She has sought assurances from the Police Ombudsman that their report will be published without delay.

Chair of the Economy Committee Phillip Brett visited Ulster University in Coleraine along with local MLA Maurice Bradley to discuss with the Vice-Chancellor of the University their plans for the future of the Coleraine campus.
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