Mr Robin Swann MLA, the Ulster Unionist Party’s North Antrim Assembly member and Chief Whip, has urged the Stormont Executive “to use its economic head wisely and do more to support the Co-operative Movement, which could hold the key to a vital source of jobs and wealth generation in the constituency’s economy”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also North Antrim UUP Chairman and Chair of the Stormont Public Accounts Committee, issued his challenge after he attended a function at Parliament Buildings during which more than 20 organisations showed Assembly members what it means to be a co-operative.
Assemblyman Swann said: “The Stormont Executive can certainly play a bigger role in supporting co-operatives. The Executive needs to know what has been achieved by individuals working together with a common aim.
“There are so many unique and vibrant organisations that make up this sector and the Executive needs to fully take on board the impact that co-operatives have on local communities, the jobs they create and the wealth they can generate.
“There can be no doubting that if the Executive was to throw its full weight behind the Co-operative Movement, this could mean major steps to rebuilding the hard-hit North Antrim economy.
“But the key question still remains – does the DUP/Sinn Fein dominated Executive have the courage to take these vital steps to benefits the North Antrim economy and constituents?” said Assemblyman Swann.
‘This is What a Co-operative Looks Like’ was a showcase event organised by Co-operative Alternatives and Social Enterprise NI with the All Party Group on Social Enterprise and Co-operatives to highlight the impact and diversity of the sector and call for local politicians to get behind the movement.
Mr Swann added: “At the beginning of this new mandate, this was an opportunity for co-operatives to enter into a conversation with political representatives and decision makers about the unique role that all co-operatives have in the building a fairer and more equal society as well as the issues that they face in their development and growth.
“There is a growing interest in the social enterprise and co-operatives business model. Increasingly private sector, public sector and political representatives are seeking to obtain a greater understanding of how they can work with co-operative members in doing their part in rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy.
“The Co-operative business model can add value and it is great to see this event taking place and the interest and support being shown by business leaders.
“While the Stormont Executive has stated its support for community energy, until a clear energy strategy is published there are many uncertainties regarding the future price of energy and the level of support if any available for community schemes. This lack of support for community energy is indicative of the apathetic attitude of our Executive towards the Co-operative Movement.
“This is why events like this are so important in raising awareness and showing our elected representatives the important role that Co-operatives play in the local economy,” said Assemblyman Swann.