Only the Green Party can be depended upon to put Northern Ireland’s people and environment at the heart of its programme in the next Assembly.
This was the message from party leader Steven Agnew, who joined representatives from the five other main parties to answer questions from the province’s environmental organisations at a hustings event staged by NI Environment Link.
While all the panel members who took part in the full debate stressed their concern for the environment, Mr Agnew stressed that the Greens are the only party that can genuinely claim every candidate fully understands the enironmental challenges facing Northern Ireland.
Summing up the party position, Mr Agnew said: “We are the Green Party – accept no substitute. We have heard fine words today and I believe the people beside me on the panel are genuine, but the Programme for Government shows that the Executive parties as a whole do not know the meaning of sustainability.
“The continual emphasis on economy first assumes that everything else will look after itself, when what we need is an economy for people and planet.”
Central to the debate was the need for a Green New Deal to put Northern Ireland on the path to a sustainable recovery from its current economic difficulties.
Steven Agnew said: “The Green Party introduced the Green New Deal into Northern Irish politics in 2009; we did not have to be dragged kicking and screaming, (Green Party MP) Caroline Lucas was one of the authors. A business plan is in place, it is affordable and achievable – but there is not enough money in the current budget.”
Other Green policies discussed in the course of the debate include the introduction of a local Climate Change Bill, which gained support from most panel members, the party’s proposal for a moratorium on road building to fund investment in home insulation and the potential for mutualisation of NI Water and introduction of water metering to pay for water quality improvements needed to avoid large fines for breach of EU law.
The other panel members were John Dallat (SDLP), Stephen Farry (Alliance) Danny Kinahan (UUP), Daithi McKay (SF) and Philip Weir (DUP), who participated in the early stages of the debate only.