When you don’t want to vote for a sectarian party in Northern Ireland, you’ve always been limited. When I was growing up, the only realistic choice was the Alliance Party because it was the party of people who were just not happy with the “situation”. It was a safe harbour but it never really got anywhere and their fortunes have waned as participation in voting has decreased.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
The Good Friday Agreement showed that the people do care. There were 200,000 people who voted Yes who then never voted again. They cared enough to turn out and vote but they were totally turned off by voting for our local parties. Could it be that the choices were just bad and ugly? You could vote for the same old crap, the same old crap or the same old crap. And it ushered in a whole new series of complaints, corruption and, possibly worst of all, the Petition of Concern. That weapon has been used to inflict the worst travesties of injustice I have ever seen.
Left, Right, Left
Obviously last year a group of mostly lefty lunatics banded together to create NI21 in the hope it could give more choice, no, a better choice for everyone. It was easily conceived, attracted more than its fair share of criticism from the media and was endlessly attacked by political rivals (especially those who were from non-sectarian parties). But for those of us who helped, it cemented some friendships but really it showed us that we, the disaffected, were not alone. But we were quickly leaderless and while that Titanic mess was sinking, the senior members of the party were bailing out with thimbles.
All Things Are Not Created Equally
I feel we have been let down most of all by some of the non-sectarian parties in our midst. Those who would quickly remind us they have heaps of LGBT members (and even some politicians), have failed multiple times to whip their elected members into supporting the Marriage Equality bills that have been considered by the Assembly. At the last count, Alliance (the part of equality) managed to field only 50% of their MLAs with a Yes vote and even that was whipped by their leader (the party whip was conspicuous in his absence from the vote).
The Grass is Always Greener
Thankfully things are a little better now. In North Down (where I live), we have managed to carve out a bastion of anti-sectarian politics in the form of the Green Party. It’s clear that I’m not going to agree with all of their policies*, especially the anti-science policies.
- The Green Party would increase funding into the research of holistic medicine, oppose regulation of complementary and alternative medicine. Why not regulate?
- The Green Party would oppose GMO foods because they are unquantifable, rather than increasing research to it. What?
- The Green Party are opposed to Stem Cell research. Full stop. Because of unknown consequences. What?
And many of their economic policies like their EU stance and their party policy on taxing goods from outside Britain. Which is fine if we’re going to return to a mostly agrarian economy. And their ideas on a wealth tax, although welcome, are completely out of touch with reality; they could be well served to look at France in that respect.
I can’t vote for the SNP in Northern Ireland. I had hope, last year, we would see the creation of a new country in Europe which would usher in a new exemplar to follow. I’ve been incredibly impressed with Estonia and Croatia in ways that Northern Ireland could have emulated. But even with a £10Bn annual gift, Northern Ireland couldn’t pull itself out of poverty.
- I’ll be voting for aggressive investment in renewable energy to establish energy security for the UK and reduce our dependence on nuclear energy and remove our need to get involved in Middle East turf wars.
- I’ll be voting for better legislation for Electric Vehicle adoption and introduction of legislation for personal electric vehicles (which interestingly enough was a manifesto point of the current coalition – something they failed to address while selling off the NHS.)
- I’ll be voting for Steven Agnew, not for the Green Party.