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SF's record on housing, health in North shows it is far from party of radical change it claims to be

Philip Ryan


Former health minister: Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill. Picture: PA

Former health minister: Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill. Picture: PA


Former health minister: Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill. Picture: PA

Sinn Féin would have you believe Northern Ireland is a shining citadel perched in the top right-hand corner of the island. A beacon of prosperity, progressiveness and perfection.

If only the political parties in the south would follow its example, then we too could live in similar utopian bliss.

Given the chance, Mary Lou McDonald will gladly show us the errors of our ways and transform our country just as her party has changed Northern Ireland, where it has been in power for more than 20 years.

Obviously, apart from the last three years when they decided not to be in power, despite being elected to the Northern Assembly.

Its MLAs did draw down their salaries though because they felt they deserved the money after creating such an ideal society with all the funding they received from the EU, the Tories and the Northern Ireland taxpayer.

Unfortunately, the North is far from an ideal society and Sinn Féin does not have a lot to be proud of when it comes to its two decades of power-sharing with the other parties who make up the Northern Assembly.

Take a recent report by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which found that more than a quarter of the UK's recent homeless deaths happened in the North.

The report found a shocking 205 homeless people died in Northern Ireland over an 18-month period.

Chief commissioner Les Allamby said that the absence of the Executive for the past three years had taken its toll.

"Rising poverty and homeless figures in Northern Ireland give cause for much concern," Mr Allamby said.

Try as you may, you won't find a statement from Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin condemning this indictment of his party colleagues. Sinn Féin also tells us it is the only party which can fix the health crisis, so you would be forgiven for believing patients in the North can walk into a hospital at any given time and be treated on the spot in their own private room.

The 108,582 people waiting longer than a year for a hospital appointment in Northern Ireland will tell you otherwise.

And they are only a third of the 306,000 people waiting for their first appointment with a hospital specialist. This figure is up 8pc on the previous year and is a record high for hospital waiting lists.

The comparable figure for the south is 553,563, but there are three million more people living here.

When the North's figures were published in December, Mark Jones from the Royal College of Surgeons said: "Northern Ireland's healthcare system is at the point of collapse. Patients in the worst affected areas of surgery are waiting up to four years for their first appointment."

Again, Sinn Féin's health spokesperson Louise O'Reilly did not see fit to issue a statement calling for a national health emergency to be declared.

She couldn't have called for the health minister to resign because there was none.

Three years earlier, the last sitting health minister was none other than Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O'Neill, who has gone on to bigger and better things.

Yesterday, it emerged Sinn Féin was hiking up the State pension age in the North to 66 while promising us all down here we could retire at 65.

Of course, the Tories are to blame for everything that doesn't work in the North and poor Sinn Féin can only sit there and watch on in horror.

We are told voters want change and Sinn Féin is trying to position itself as the protest vote party.

But when you look at its record on housing and health in the North it's hard to see how it is any different to our current lot.

Irish Independent