Ulster Unionist Assembly Member for Mid-Ulster, and Spokesperson for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Sandra Overend, offers her best wishes for the New Year to everyone across Mid-Ulster and further afield.
Mrs Overend stated, “As the New Year dawns upon us it is good to take the time to reflect on the year just past and the opportunities and plans for the future.
“The last 12 months have been very mixed for Northern Ireland. In the economy we have seen a continued fall in unemployment in recent months. However, the claimant count is still relatively high, and a particular worry is the high level of youth unemployment which is worrying for so many of our young people. To that end, in Mid-Ulster I held a youth focused unemployment event with specialist speakers and information stalls equipping young people with the knowledge and ability to move into training, employment or back into education.
“Businesses in Mid-Ulster have continued to prove successful, with many expanding and developing operations throughout Northern Ireland, the UK and the rest of the world, and with many winning awards at regional and national levels. There are far too many to congratulate individually here, but their work is going a long way to helping the local and wider economy. It has been particularly useful for me to develop and expand good working relationships with many businesses across Mid-Ulster and Northern Ireland as well as industry representatives and Chamber of Commerce organisations in my role as Enterprise, Trade and Investment Spokesperson for the Ulster Unionist Party, and I thank them for that.
“In 2014 I hope for continued progress in the economy, and at the minute there certainly is a glimmer of hope that we are heading toward growth. I certainly will be continuing to press the Executive to provide the best conditions for our small and medium enterprises to grow and flourish, to improve our export levels and to attract the best foreign direct investments to Northern Ireland. The Agri-Food Strategy is certainly one that I will be keeping an eye on and both in terms of promoting Northern Ireland on a global scale but also in terms of increased opportunities and returns for our production companies, and by that I mean, the farmers.
Mrs Overend continued, “In 2013 Northern Ireland held the successful World Police and Fire Games, and Londonderry was the UK City of Culture, showcasing a range of cultural and artistic events, the best that Northern Ireland has to offer. However, the image of Northern Ireland has been damaged by the continued actions of those who try to undermine the peaceful structures that we have in place now, and whose efforts only act to unite the right minded people of Northern Ireland against their destructive attempts to drag us into the past. They will not succeed.
“Our Party Leader, Mike Nesbitt and the rest of the Ulster Unionist Party delegation continue to work over the Christmas period with Dr Haass and Professor O’Sullivan through discussions attempting to seek a fair and agreed outcome. In our opinion, the test of any proposal is whether it represents doing what’s right for Northern Ireland, and that will be measured in whether it is fair to all our citizens and advances society in a manner that does not disrespect the rights and needs of victims and survivors, nor disregards the rule of law.
“The Ulster Unionist Party will fight two elections in 2014, with Jim Nicholson MEP contesting the European elections on the same day that shadow super-council elections will take place. I urge the people of Mid-Ulster to ensure that you are on the voting register, to ensure your voice is heard in the important democratic discussions. My office is happy to assist you to get on the register, and is available all year round for any other problems or queries that you have. I will continue, in 2014, to work as I have done since I was elected in 2011, for the people of Mid-Ulster and Northern Ireland.
May I take this opportunity to wish everyone in Mid-Ulster a peaceful and prosperous New Year.”