As a child growing up if someone was to mention politics it went completely over my head. That would be understandable had the topic of conversation been the budget or the deficit or the recession- all reasonably difficult concepts for a young child to understand. Instead it was division of orange and green.
It was only as I got older and began to study the history of Ireland that I began to come to grips with our past for myself. As I undertook my GCSEs I learned of such things as the Ulster Covenant, the partition of Ireland and the history of Northern Ireland up to the present day. As a lover of history I was intrigued and began digging into the past for myself. I soon discovered I was the great grandson of men and women whose signatures are on the Ulster covenant and that family members in generations before had been Orange men. Growing up in North Down in a Protestant family it is safe to say I could have and should have voted unionist… but that is not the case.
My views of our politicians here in Northern Ireland was shaped by what I heard from adults around me and the soundbites that I picked up from the various news outlets I watched daily. I- like many- saw them as old, out of touch, selfish individuals who wanted power, not peace. So when I was to undertake work experience with Dr Stephen Farry I was very pleasantly surprised. In Stephen I met a man who was humble, down to earth, full of integrity and wanted the best for his country. I was only with him for 2 days but in that time I had developed a great respect for him. It was because of his example that I began to think perhaps Northern Ireland could one day have normal politics. It is because of him that when I turned 18 just over a year later that I joined the Alliance Party. Alliance have a clear vision- to bring forward this country and celebrate all people within it. One of their slogans is ‘celebrating diversity’ and is one of the reasons I love this country. We are this rare little corner of the world which for being so small is so divided and split on many lines but the idea of bringing all of this together excites me. We are all people, we all live in the same 6 counties, for me we are one community.
In 1998 the people of this country said that they had had enough of violence and embraced change and peace- these are yet to be fully implemented but they can be. Alliance is committed to delivering comprehensive peace and not let it lie in pieces.
I want to see us stop talking about green and orange and talking about our NHS, about education, about welfare, about marriage equality, about abortion laws and so many more issues that this little nation faces. So as Naomi Long has said we can either let division be a weakness or we can come together and be strong sorting these issues. That is why I am with this party.
So, with the election looming on the 2nd of March this year I plead to you to vote for a shared future, vote for peace and vote for a Northern Ireland that is tolerant and accepting of all. This March rather than orange or green, vote yellow- vote Alliance.