19 December 2002 Edition

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Public Private Partnership undermining local democracy


Three position papers, full workshops, not much cribbing and a lot of deliberation - something new is happening in Sinn Fein and last weekend's Belfast conference on Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) showed how far the party has come in recent years.

A range of party activists had gathered to discuss two things. They were, how do we deal with PPP in the here and now, and then how do we plan alternatives in the future.

Francie Molloy, MLA for Mid Ulster gave a paper on the experience of PPP in the Six Counties and how this creeping privatisation was affecting day-to-day provision of basic services. Arthur Morgan TD for Louth also gave a keynote address on how the party should frame the wider debate on PPP. Belfast City councillor Tom Hartley was the chair for the day.

What was most notable about the conference was the quality of not just the formal contributions, but also the workshop and other discussions. It wasn't that we just had assembly members or TDs with growing political experience, it was that there were a range of councillors and party activists from the two ministers offices, the Sinn Féin operation in Stormont and Leinster House, all with a wealth of knowledge about the PPP dilemmas, and all with options and strategies that will help hone a coherent cutting edge response from the party on this issue.

Morgan in his address quoted from Declan Kearney's Road Map paper saying that "we shouldn't perhaps see the PPP/PFI issue as a problem but see it for what it really is - a strategic opportunity".

Sinn Fein has a lot of work to do in developing a two pronged response to PPP. The weekend's conference showed not just the stomach for the fight but also a depth of ability to rise to this challenge.

Jim Gibney, Marie Moore, Daisy Mules and Pat McNamee at the Sinn Féin conference on PPPs on Saturday 14 December.

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