The past year has seen an outright attack on liberalism across the western world. It’s now time for liberal parties to stand, and fight, together. Today, Alliance Youth joined European Liberal Youth (LYMEC) to stand with our liberal friends in fighting for a united, tolerant and liberal Europe. Together with our international partners we will oppose the hateful rhetoric we heard during the EU Referendum campaign, and promote liberal progressive values both in Northern Ireland and further afield.
On 23 June, the people of Northern Ireland made their voices heard. 55% of them want to remain a part of the European Union. They want to be part of a stronger union where people, goods and services are free to live, work and move from Belfast to Brussels to Berlin. Unfortunately neither the First Minister or the Prime Minister are willing to accept that.
Brexit doesn’t just mean Brexit. It doesn’t just mean the UK leaving the European Union. The vote has emboldened right-wing populists. Not only do they want to pull-up the drawbridge, but they want to take away the rights that were long fought for. Indeed the DUP have already been trying to block progress in NI for over 30 years. Same-sex marriage, Sunday trading laws, alcohol licensing laws: just some examples of how the DUP have been blocking progress.
The First Minister may refer to us all as ‘remoaners’, but that just shows how out-of-touch the DUP are with the electorate in Northern Ireland. If they aren’t willing to fight for the people of Northern Ireland, we will. If they aren’t willing to enable future generations of Northern Irish citizens to take their place in the world alongside our neighbours and friends, as equals, we will. We will stand with the young people in Northern Ireland who are fed up, and quite frankly, embarrassed by the theological fuelled conservatism of the past.
While the move towards social progressive policies by their coalition partners Sinn Féin is to be commended, their economic illiteracy leaves little to be desired. With an infrastructure minister who is determined to limit competition by banning Uber, it’s clear economic liberalism is also at risk.
That is why joining LYMEC is important to us. Northern Ireland, with its right-wing zealotry and economic backwater status, used to be an outlier. Unfortunately with the rise of UKIP, Front National and Alternative für Deutschland, it’s clear we no longer just need to fight for liberalism in Northern Ireland, but across Europe.
None of this matters in comparison to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. As liberals, if we are unable to guarantee the safety of desperate refugees then we should hang our heads in shame. LYMEC and its member organisations have played a vital role in influencing public opinion in their respective states. Alliance Youth are ready to be a part of that.
Help us fight for a more liberal, progressive society; join Alliance and Alliance Youth at http://bit.ly/2fN8A37