Health top of the priority list for Upper Bann MLAs as Stormont political parties get back to work

​AFTER months of deadlock, deliberation and debate, the deal has been done and Stormont is back in business.
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It follows a two-year hiatus, during which the DUP boycotted power-sharing over post-Brexit checks and restrictions on goods arriving at Northern Ireland ports.

Now, having signed off on a deal with Westminster and a financial package of £3.3 billion pounds secured, a new Northern Ireland Executive has been formed.

So, as the dust settles in the house on the hill, what are local politicians choosing to prioritise?

Upper Bann's MLAs got back to business at Stormont on Saturday.Upper Bann's MLAs got back to business at Stormont on Saturday.
Upper Bann's MLAs got back to business at Stormont on Saturday.

For Upper Bann MLA, Eoin Tennyson, tackling spiralling waiting lists is of key concern. The Alliance Party representative has spoken in the chamber for the first time this week, having been elected back in May 2022. He said he is “driven by a desire to help people right across the community.”

“Too many people in Banbridge are languishing on waiting lists or struggling to access their GP. We must make progress on health transformation and the rollout of affordable childcare.”

Whilst these are no doubt long-term initiatives, Mr Tennyson argued: “Work must commence now.

“I do not underestimate the challenges we face but I believe we can best address them by working together."

Among Mr Tennyson’s priority pile is lobbying for an upgrade on what is regarded one of Northern Ireland’s deadliest roads - the A1. Over 40 people have tragically died along the main route from Belfast to Dublin, between Sprucefield and Newry in the last 17 years.

Speaking on the matter, the Upper Bann MLA said, “The A1 continues to be one of our most dangerous roads and I know it is an issue at the forefront of the minds of many residents in Banbridge. Now that the Executive has returned, the Department for Infrastructure must prioritise the long-overdue safety improvements and I will do all I can to ensure these works are progressed."

Meanwhile, on the return to Stormont, Ulster Unionist Party Leader Doug Beattie said he is ready to “hit the ground running.” It could be argued the Upper Bann MLA is in a position of significant influence, given his party colleague Robin Swann’s post as Health Minister. Mr Beattie however, said he has already gone a step further and pressed the Prime Minister for additional funding.

“One of the biggest concerns facing constituents in Upper Bann is access to GP and dental services. When I met with Rishi Sunak on Monday, I urged him to consider replicating the state sponsored GP indemnity insurance scheme presently covering England and Wales. This could help alleviate some pressures on GP practices.”

Another concern for Mr Beattie is the reconstruction of the local high street. It comes following a tumultuous few years for the hospitality and retail sectors, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising cost of living.

The UUP leader has stressed the importance of making our town centres accessible and vibrant.

“We must look at how we can properly support businesses across the borough. The onus is on us to take some of the burden off their shoulders, adding an economic stimulus to the region.” It is also important that vital upgrades to public services, transport, leisure facilities and community groups are delivered at Stormont.”

We also contacted the DUP’s Upper Bann MLA Diane Dodds for comment but none was forthcoming ahead of going to press.