ROBIN Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman, says health, happiness and peace should be at the core of our resolutions for 2013. In his New Year message to constituents, Assemblyman Swann said: “My hopes for 2013 would be that the people of the constituency in particular and Northern Ireland in general would have health, happiness and peace throughout the year.
“The Northern Ireland community will face a number of challenges in 2013, and one of the major bridges to cross will be that of ensuring that our health service is restored to effective working order.
“As UUP Chief Whip in our Assembly, I call on our entire community to rally round the doctors, nurses and other medical and support staff in our beleaguered health service. Each of us needs to play our part in helping the staff through these times of crisis.
“The waiting lists and administrative duplication are already starting to spiral out of control. We must implement a health strategy that puts patients first, not empty rhetoric.
“There is also the threat being posed from illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and epilepsy. Again, we must ensure there is financial provision to help with the treatment and cures for these illnesses. This can only be achieved by removing the stranglehold which bureaucratic ‘red tape’ has around the throat of our health service.
“Health within the community can only be truly achieved if we have a stable health service, coupled with a peaceful and lasting political solution.
“North Antrim has a substantial farming community, and we must never forget the stresses and strains which it has had to endure in recent years. It is also my hope and prayer that 2013 will bring an easing of the financial burdens which have blighted so many farming families.
“In this respect, I hope 2013 will see an implementation of a major strategic plan for Ulster’s farmers. It will be vital to use the advice of the best market trend analysts and commodity specialists to best guess what the shape of agriculture would be in Northern Ireland over the next decade. “This is so that farmers can create their own business plans with hope of success and without the continual changes in Government policy which have characterised the last generation.
“A key consideration of such a long-term strategy will be preparing Ulster farmers for the impact of the economic crisis in the European Union. Financially, too, if Ulster farmers are to survive profitably it is vital that we develop a Fair Price Commission.
“Such a Commission should determine where the distribution of profits lies between the farmers, producers, processors and retailers and the supermarkets. The Commission must assess, based on a value added basis what a fair distribution of profits would be.
“It would also label supermarket produce with a Fair Price label, indicating where the pricing structure lies within the recommended levels. This would be similar to the niche markets currently operating in the organic food sector.
“The development of a Fair Price Commission will force the supermarkets to change to a policy of customer-led demand. All other attempts to change supermarket behaviour on prices have not succeeded thus far. Only by driving a change through their customer spending, can we hope to change them within the bounds of the European competition laws.
“But for these policies to effectively benefit the Ulster farmer, it is of the utmost necessity that there be a massive re-organisation within the work of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, or DARD.
“It is scandalous that there is one DARD official for every handful of farms in Northern Ireland. DARD needs to become the support service for farmers, not the policemen of farmers. There is also the drastic need to reduce the bureaucratic nightmare of form filling for farmers.
“The results of the census clearly demonstrated that nationalist aspirations for a united Ireland will not be a reality for the foreseeable future. It is, therefore, incumbent on all of us to build a peaceful and stable Northern Ireland which delivers economically and socially for all our children without wasting energy endlessly debating the unachievable.
“For everyone in the constituency, my prayer is that throughout 2013 God’s richest blessing will be with you and with all whom you love,” said Assemblyman Swann.