I do not stand here today to defend the social investment fund; I stand here today to commend it. I hope that the Executive Office has the will to do a SIF2 because SIF has been doing wonderful work out there.
It has been targeted by a small number of people who have gone after one individual, who made a stupid and flippant remark, which means that everybody who has benefited from SIF is now the target of individuals in this Chamber who are acting out of political interests and not in the public interest in this instance.
I note all that the Alliance Party have been saying. I note that in North Down council, for example, Alderman Wilson, who is an Alliance person, chaired a SIF meeting on 7 May 2013. In attendance were none other than David Stitt and Robert Scott, and those members were congratulated on the informative presentation on the progress of the Kilcooley Sports Forum project business plan.
That was a meeting chaired by the Alliance Party. Also in attendance was one Councillor Muir. He seemed to pay a lot of attention to these things, because he was in attendance at another meeting when it was discussed, on 7 October 2014. Again, Councillor Wilson was there. He attended a further meeting, on 14 October 2015, which was chaired by none other than Councillor Armstrong, who, I think, is the same Kellie Armstrong who is now in this Assembly.
Here we have the Alliance Party, taking a full part in the process and giving the money to an organisation headed up by Mr Stitt, and they did not have an issue. They were in the meetings commending them — commending Mr Stitt for his wonderful work — and here they are today, complaining because of one stupid, flippant remark.
Let me be very clear: the work that is being done by the communities is excellent work. Mrs Long, at the invitation of her Alliance Party councillors, was to come to Lisburn last week and see the work that is going on with the Resurgam initiative, but, on the very day that she was to come, she cancelled, claiming that she had a conflict of interest because she was going to be participating in today's debate, wherever she is. How is it a conflict of interest to come and see what is happening on the ground? If she had bothered to come and see what is happening on the ground, she would have seen initiatives that involve youth work. She would have seen buildings being put up in deprived communities that are making a tangible difference. Mr Lunn knows what is going on in the Lisburn community. He knows the benefit. When there is something taking place in Resurgam, Alliance Party councillors are tripping over themselves to get into photographs and everything else to be associated with it, but Mrs Long decided to pull out.
Let me tell you about one of the key initiatives that is happening in Lisburn, and that is the early years initiative. I commend it to every constituency in Northern Ireland. We identified a serious problem with the educational tail, where young people were not achieving at the higher end, and those young people are now being targeted at nursery and in early primary years. Money from SIF is going into speech therapy, having been channelled through Resurgam. Resurgam could have kept the money, but it is being channelled through the schools. As a consequence, those children are coming to school ready and able to take on the lessons. They will not form the educational tail that there has been in deprived working-class loyalist areas very often. I commend those kinds of initiatives.
Today, we have heard politicians from all over — Mr Kennedy and others — talk about the great projects that have been happening yet say that it is a terrible fund that is delivering them. The truth is that this is a hypocritical motion from a hypocritical party. SIF is doing great work. It is doing wonderful work. I want to see it going forward. Instead of targeting it because of one individual making a stupid comment, let us look at the good that is coming out of it. The same people did not have anything to say when, through neighbourhood renewal and all sorts of things, ex-prisoners' groups were getting the money, which was going to republican areas six or seven times more —
— than it was to loyalist areas. It is funny that, when it is money coming to loyalist areas — I am proud to be a loyalist by the way: loyal to the Queen and loyal to my country — the Alliance Party is complaining.
1. Mr Poots asked the Minister of Health whether she plans to deliver a campaign targeting ovarian cancer. (AQO 744/16-21)
Ballinderry, Ballymacash, Ballymacbrennan, Ballymacoss, Blaris, Derryaghy, Dromara, Dromore North, Dromore South, Drumbo, Glenavy, Gransha, Harmony Hill, Hilden, Hillhall, Hillsborough, Knockmore, Lagan Valley, Lambeg, Lisnagarvey, Maghaberry, Magheralave, Maze, Moira, Old Warren, Quilly, Seymour Hill, Tonagh, Wallace Park.