'We need more funding': Healthcare and Irish Sea border key issues for Upper Bann voters

With a week to go until the UK General Election on July 4, we are visiting each constituency across Northern Ireland to hear the issues which matter most to our readers in the countdown to the polls opening.

The next stop on our tour, which is part of the UK-wide 5000 Voices project, was the Upper Bann constituency where the DUP's Carla Lockhart is hoping to retain her seat.

The constituency has a unionist majority, with the area encompassing the post-industrial towns of Portadown, Craigavon, and Lurgan.

Read more: 'A change is needed': The key issues for North Belfast voters ahead of election

Read more: 'Really badly rundown': NHS main issue for people of North Antrim ahead of polls

We got chatting to the public in Portadown this week to see what factors influence their vote, what issues matter most to them, and what changes they would like to see at the upcoming election.

Issues with healthcare, housing, education, the cost of living crisis, and the Irish Sea border came up the most with voters in this area.

One woman said: "I work in the health service and it's literally crumbling around us. I think to have something so precious and to let it be lost by people that can't work together, we expect our kids to work together in school - can politicians not do the same thing?

"Everybody is under pressure, I think schools do a great job, but everybody's been left to sail along on their own."

A man we spoke to added: "I think the constitutional issue is the big one in this area. Unless it's settled, there'll be no more social issues that will be cohesive in the future. The Irish Sea border must go, we must be a part of the UK, either we're part of the UK or we're not."

Another woman said: "Issues such as special needs [education] for children, the housing issue is terrible here in Portadown where people on waiting lists for years seem to be bumped over by other people who have just come into the country.

"Then of course issues with dentists and doctors, especially at my age, trying to get through to one would take you three days."

Other issues, including moral concerns, were also highlighted. One woman said: "The main issues for me would be the moral issues, so I would be voting for someone who takes their stand for the right of life, the right of the unborn child, and also the rights of our children in education.

"I think there has been a big push recently for agendas to be brought into schools, where children are taught about transgenderism, LGBTQ+, and I would be concerned there's a push for education to be affected in that way."

We asked voters for their opinion on the current state of UK politics, asking specifically about how well Rishi Sunak has done and what they think of his opponent, Labour's Keir Starmer.

"The people of this area are calling him 'Risky Sunak' for the reason he takes risks all the time," one man said.

"He seems to have sold us out on Brexit, we voted for a Brexit but at the same time we didn't get the Brexit we wanted, leaving us high and dry. The sooner he goes the better."

One woman echoed this sentiment, adding: "Him, his family, and much of the Conservatives are so well off they wouldn't have a clue or idea how people who are trying to make ends meet, work, and save, are doing.

"They have no idea of poverty or anything like that. They haven't a clue what people are going through at this time in the UK and in Northern Ireland."

Another woman added: "I think there's enough in our own little political world to be thinking about, and I think politicians are there for themselves more than anything."

As for Keir Starmer, one man said he doesn't have high hopes for the Labour leader. He said: "My part of the community which would be the the Protestant community don't have a great deal of faith in Mr Starmer as Labour has never been kind to the unionist position. We think they will go closer again to Europe and before we know it we'll be right back into the European Union."

Video by Belfast Live videographer Harry Bateman.

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