North Down Alliance Insight

This month I provide another insight into The Alliance Party in North Down.

November 2008: November proves to be a busy month for North Down Alliance

The Alliance Party’s North Down Association Executive Committee has experienced an extremely busy month during November.

The month started with celebrations following the election of Barack Obama as US President elect on 5 November 2008. Commenting shortly after his election, North Down Alliance MLA Dr Stephen Farry remarked “His victory is a paradigm shift in US politics, and opens up new opportunities on the international stage. This has been a remarkable election, with two outstanding yet contrasting candidates. The election of a man with a multi-racial background, with a non-traditional name is a transformational moment.”

The Association then held its regular monthly meeting on Monday 10 November 2008. A wide range of topics were discussed at the meeting which was well attended as per usual. The North Down Treasurer again reported a healthy financial state of affairs with the Membership Officer yet again reporting the arrival of new members.

Local Alliance Councillors updated the meeting on work currently underway to determine Council’s budgets for 2009/10 with all in agreement that the current method of calculating rates was unfair. The Alliance Party’s position that rates should be replaced by a Local Income Tax was again agreed as the best alternative to the current system which plays little regard to the ability to pay.

North Down Alliance Alderman Marsden Fitzsimmons provided a valuable update on current activities at North Down Borough Council. Many of those in attendance were interested in the ongoing work to promote Christian Heritage within the Borough.

A general discussion occurred concerning the recent Home Coming Parade for troops who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan with all in agreement that it was right for the parade to go ahead, echoing a comment made by Dr Farry in July 2008 when he stated "irrespective of people's opinions regarding the merits of the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, our troops deserve much credit for their bravery in the line of duty”.

Following the meeting many North Down Alliance members then met again on Thursday 20 November 2008 for a “Question Time” style debate chaired by North Down Alliance Association Executive Chairperson Neil Dickey with Dr Stephen Farry MLA, Councillor Ian Parsley and Councillor David Alderdice serving as panel members.

A range of topics were discussed during the debate ranging from education, rural planning and sectarianism.

A general consensus emerged that whilst the recent proposals from the Church leaders had merit the Alliance Party’s overarching approach to education is to ensure all pupils can avail of the integrated approach if desired.

The meeting also reaffirmed the Party’s position that sectarianism and division should be tackled in order to enable sustainable long term economic development.

25 November 2008

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Benjamin Disraeli's quote "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" immediately came to mind today when I heard about Lisburn City Council's current survey which asks the public "Do you support the new planning application which will bring the first John Lewis to Northern Ireland?"

The online survey can be viewed by clicking here but, incredibly, only offers respondents to choose "Yes". People cannot choose "No", never mind "Don't know".

Whilst I support the latest John Lewis Planning Application, Lisburn City Council's online survey only serves to discredit their campaign for the application to be approved. It also provides yet further proof that the Council is both arrogant and unwilling to listen to different views.

19 November 2008

Change can happen

Like many others, I stayed up until dawn to witness the election of Barack Obama as President elect of the United States of America.

The magnitude of the event was probably best summarised by Wendy Austin on BBC Radio Ulster this morning when she recalled that someone had told her that the person elected could have been the slave of the first sixteen US Presidents.

Whilst I remain elated and amazed that the USA has managed to realise true racial equality after legislating for it in the 1960s I am also euphoric that politics has been shown in a positive light.

Far too often politics is characterised by negativity, lacking in courage, with politicians often seen as being less than honest and radical change next to impossible.

Obama's charismatic and frank messages of hope and promises of change have inspired millions of people across the World, re-igniting many peoples interest in politics.

With the electoral battle now won a bigger challenge now arises for Obama to maintain the electorates newly found faith in politics. I am confident he will meet this challenge and eagerly await his inauguration speech on 20 January 2009.

Whilst Obama's victory may be rather frustrating in Northern Ireland since we are stuck with politics dominated by the old norms I am however determined to continue the fight to prove that change can happen. To those who ask if Northern Ireland can have the politics of Obama I say, Yes we can!

5 November 2008