Northern Ireland Election 2016

NI assembly election: SDLP proposes £250 payment to babies

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Media captionSDLP leader Colum Eastwood launched the party's manifesto in Dungannon

The SDLP has launched its manifesto with a pledge to give new-born children in Northern Ireland a £250 payment.

The party said its proposed strong start fund could be topped up with a £250 further payment when a child celebrates their 10th birthday.

The party also promised to reverse the cut in student numbers and reduce tuition fees.

It said it would tackle what it terms the gross disparity in investment in different areas of Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the manifesto launch in Dungannon, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood criticised Sinn Féin for what he said was their failure to take an important economic ministry during nine years in power.

The manifesto criticised the DUP/Sinn Féin shared education campus initiative as not going far enough and pledged to build and promote integrated education.

The SDLP said it is running for government, not opposition, but will only take a place in the power-sharing coalition if its programme for government meets its requirements.

"Stormont's current leaders are selling an illusion of progress," Mr Eastwood said.

"More and more though, it is an illusion that only they see and they believe."

On the money for children, Mr Eastwood said: "The SDLP will give every child born here the chance to build for their financial future," Mr Eastwood said..

"It is unacceptable in an economy as wealthy as ours that children live in homes with no savings or assets. That ends now."

Other key commitments outlined during the launch in Dungannon included:

  • The establishment of Northern Ireland's first ever digital technology and coding academy
  • Providing greater investment in regional infrastructure projects like roads and railways
  • Promoting the integrated education of Catholic and Protestant children
  • Renewing efforts to tackle hospital waiting lists and building about 3,000 new social homes every year for those in the most need
  • Supporting the creation of nearly 40,000 jobs and reversing the cut in the number of student places

"The north cannot continue losing some of its best and brightest," Mr Eastwood said.

"Our people are our greatest resource and the future of this economy is diminished by every one of those people that is forced to leave."

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