Northern Ireland

Send DUP and Sinn Féin a message, urges UUP leader

Robin Swann
Image caption UUP leader Robin Swann addressed the manifesto launch at the Stormont Hotel

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann has urged voters to "send a message" to Sinn Féin and the DUP in next week's council elections following two years of "gridlock" at Stormont.

He was speaking at the launch of the party's local government election manifesto in east Belfast.

Mr Swann said the public "want politicians who can deliver better".

The UUP is running 117 candidates in a bid to win seats across the 11 councils.

In 2014, they secured 88 seats.

Mr Swann accused Sinn Fein and the DUP of trying to turn the local government election into a vote on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

"We cannot ignore that this campaign has seen the DUP and Sinn Féin trying to turn it into a border poll and create an atmosphere around it that is as toxic as the one they created at Stormont," he said.

The Ulster Unionist party wants to see decision making powers at Stormont transferred to local councils including community regeneration, roadside grass cutting, youth services and responsibility for the natural and built heritage.

"Most people already assume councils are responsible for cutting the grass, filling in potholes and even providing youth centres - so lets give them powers," said Mr Swann.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Lyra McKee was shot dead in Londonderry

The party leader also used his speech to condemn the murder of Lyra McKee in Londonderry last week.

Mr Swann urged politicians to get "back round the table" and warned that a political vacuum will be exploited by "the men and women of the shadows".

The Ulster Unionist party manifesto also calls for the Northern Ireland Audit Office to conduct a full analysis of the true costs, and savings, of local government reform.

The party also wants to abolish the existing rates system and replace it with a separate Council and Assembly Tax.