A quick glance around you will show the inescapable need for political change in this city and right across the island of Ireland. Like many I find the failure of both Leinster House & Stormont to provide for society's poorest and most vulnerable to be reprehensible. The fact that homeless people have been dying on our streets in freezing temperatures should be of deep concern to all, particularly those claiming to be, 'cherishing all children of the nation equally' not to mention those who have recently announced a 'fresh start'.
With all the sabre rattling at Stormont it's not surprising that important issues fall under the radar after a brief flurry of media coverage, but then again this is what orange and green deflection serves to do. The sectarian carve up at Stormont serves to maintain the status quo which gives the illusion that British government are mere peace keepers here sandwiched between sectarian savages. A recent statement from the British Secretary of State on the victims and legacy issues easily confirms this. This is why I firmly believe we need vocal and capable alternatives in Stormont, if only to expose it's current operation and existence for the farce it is.
The recent announcement that Martin McGuinness is to make a 'dramatic return' to Derry to make things better for those of us living on the “periphery” gave me a laugh and for loads of reasons, here's three of them. 1. He has never left the city. 2. As Deputy First Minister I believed he was there to represent all. 3. With his announcement is he suggesting that those in Sinn Fein currently representing the Foyle constituency are incapable of doing what they were elected to do? So much so he feels the need to make a 'dramatic return'. This dramatic return will certainly give him the opportunity on the doorsteps to explain why he signed off on project Kelvin going to Coleraine when it was earmarked for Derry, or welcomed Stream jobs to Belfast after the company shafted it's Derry workforce..
|Goodbye Project Kelvin.|
A recent drip feeding of investment into the city has not gone unnoticed, nor has the timing of it with it coming just weeks after Mr McGuinness announced he is to contest the election here. The first good will gesture came from his party colleague Caral Ni Chuilin in the form of £500,000 funding to go towards the redevelopment of the Museum of Free Derry.
The second announcement centred on the redevelopment of the old Immaculate Conception College site in the Waterside area of the city. Whilst development is to be welcomed, particularly with it including social housing, what must be asked of Sinn Fein which holds the education brief is have they given any forethought as to where children coming into the area are supposed to go to school?
In a city divided by the river Foyle, children currently living in this deprived area in the east of the city seeking a post-primary Catholic education in line with their religious faith are forced to travel to the west-bank of the city following the closure of the Immaculate Conception College. Prior to the closure a lot of parents were forced to find a new school place for their child which was no easy task with local post primary schools bunged to capacity. But then with over 100 schools having been closed in the north in recent years I doubt the Department of Education will be in a hurry to build more. And even if they were, with the debt accumulated via private finance initiatives in respect of the redevelopment of some schools I doubt the next few budgets would stretch to additional school builds.
The SDLP who are to contest the election seem to think that nominating a new and younger party leader will help them rebuild their party. The SDLP lost two seats in the last council elections in Derry . This loss in the 'Hume heartland' should have been a wake up call to the SDLP who instead of trying to remedy the situation proceeded to rest on their laurels whilst shafting existing well respected and long standing members like Sean Carr and by doing this alienating his supporters and votes. I feel the best the SDLP can hope for in this election outside of their support base is a bit of tactical voting or transferring. But with DUP stalwart Maurice Devenney potentially no longer in a position to canvass for them they could face a drop in their vote!
The other party which has thrown it's hat into the electoral ring is the self proclaimed 'all Ireland' People Before Profit. My opinion of this alleged alliance is no secret, but that aside there are more pressing matters at hand. People Before Profit in the 26 counties as part of the right to change movement will be encouraging their voters to transfer to Sinn Fein who too have signed up to the movement. In contrast their electoral partners the Anti Austerity Alliance are quite firm in that they will not, given Sinn Fein's pro-austerity stance in the north.
A question to be asked now, is will People Before Profit be encouraging that transfers be given to Sinn Fein in the north? If not, does this mean that as an all Ireland party they will be running different policies north and south? Either way their actions in the south could impact on the north, as how can People Before Profit claim to be an anti-austerity party who look beyond orange and green when their candidates in the south are agreeing to a transfer pact with a party entrenched in green who implement cuts in the north?
You may recall a few weeks ago I did a blog urging people, particularly republicans, to take a different or tactical view on voting in assembly elections. Reaction to this article was interesting! Since then, I have made a firm decision to support the independent candidate Dr. Anne Mc Closkey who is taking the brave step of contesting the upcoming assembly election in the Foyle Constituency. Having stood as independent candidate in the council elections I know first hand that to make such a decision not only requires courage but emanates from the desire to highlight issues or help create change. Dr McCloskey works in the coal face of a deprived area and has done so for 23 years, if anyone knows of the impact of Stormont's failed policies and the need for change she does.
I first met Anne McCloskey at a meeting to organise the 40th Anniversary Bloody Sunday March. At that time I remembered thinking fair to play to her for taking time out of her busy schedule to help. Sadly in the 40th anniversary year there were people who turned their back on the march, thankfully Anne was not one of them with some of her contribution still recognised in photos via the civil rights armbands she took time to make whilst helping with the stewarding.
Considering the issues above, and bearing in mind this is just a snapshot of the bigger picture, I would ask you, what are you going to do this election time? Are you going to stick your head in the sand and ignore was is going on around here? Or are you going to continue to go with the flow in the knowledge that only dead fish go with the flow? For myself in this election I am putting people before parties and entrusting my vote in a woman who has a proven track record in caring for people in our community and not just at election times.