NI Assembly election: 'Hands off our bus passes!'

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Hands off our bus passes!

Image source, Age Sector Platform
Image caption,
Margaret Galloway and Anne Watson said free transport is vital to older people

With Northern Ireland's population aging, older voters will undoubtedly have an important say in the outcome of the assembly election on 2 March.

And with that in mind, the Northern Ireland Pensioners' Parliament has drawn up a manifesto of what its members feel are the key issues for them.

Their eight-point paper touches on a number of concerns that older people have, including energy costs, age discrimination, prescription charges and public transport.

Anne Watson, a member of the Pensioners' Parliament said that withdrawing free Smartpass travelcards for older people would have a knock-on effect on the health service.

She issued a warning to those who will be returned to Stormont after the election: Hands off our bus passes.

"They think they have problems as far as health is concerned now - they ain't seen anything yet if they take the Smartpass away," she said.

Image source, John Murphy
Image caption,
Francis Hughes said older people deserved more recognition for childcare

"If older people can't get out, they're going to be sitting in the house, feeling sorry for themselves because they couldn't afford the bus fares.

"They'll be finding medical problems they never knew they had."

Margaret Galloway said free transport was "vitally important" to senior citizens in keeping them active and enabling them to visit their children and babysit grandchildren.

And Francis Hughes said older people needed more credit for their contribution to saving on childcare costs in Northern Ireland.

"We've heard about the bank of mum and dad - there's the bank of grandparents as well," he said.

"Grandparents are making huge contributions, which are not recognised."

McNulty's stand-off over poster rustling

Image source, Justin McNulty

It's one of the murky inevitabilities of election campaigns - posters are pinched from lampposts, hoardings are hauled away from roadsides and some are defaced and ditched.

Whether it's done for political gain or just out of badness is anyone's guess.

But after four of his hoardings went missing from where they'd been placed in Armagh, the SDLP's Justin McNulty has taken a novel approach to tackling the culprits.

In a wild west-style post on Twitter, he challenges those who moved his promotional material to join his canvassing team.

"If you like my poster so much," he said, "come and lend a hand with our campaign."

Sinn Féin's vote set to slide?

Image source, Richard McAuley

Could this be the first sign that Sinn Féin's vote is set to slide in this election?

Veteran republican Fra McCann took his election campaign to the children's playpark in Belfast's Dunville Park for a party event along with party president Gerry Adams.

And even though he's running in his 18th election, he's clearly still fit for some fun and games along the way.

Screaming for change

A west Belfast community worker has said this election "feels different" as people are "screaming out" against the status quo at Stormont.

Speaking at an event looking at the impact of Brexit in West Belfast on Tuesday, Tommy Holland said he believed politicians "might get a slap on the wrists".

He has been working in the community for 37 years, now with the Upper Springfield Development Trust, and said he "feels hopeful" of change at the ballot box.

"We need to get away from that whole past that we went through," he said.

"People want it to be different - it has to be different.

"This is what I'm hearing on the ground in the community and voluntary sector and talking to the friends, the neighbours, the family.

"I hope that people don't get apathy, I hope that people do come out in their droves and I hope they vote to ensure that there's proper government."

BBC News NI's Campaign Catch-up will keep you across the Northern Ireland Assembly election trail with a daily dose of the main stories, the minor ones and the lighter moments in the run up to polling day on Thursday 2 March.