Change at helm of North Down Alliance Association

North Down Alliance Association held its AGM last Wednesday night and was well attended by established and new members alike. There was an exuberant mood evident with an excitement about campaigning for the upcoming Westminster election and building on the previous year’s success in the European election.

Looking back on the previous year’s achievements, outgoing chair Neil Dickey drew attention to the successful fundraising events such as the joint-table quiz with Strangford Alliance Association, the summer fete, the barbeque and the coffee morning. He congratulated the Association on the success of significantly increasing Alliance’s vote in North Down during the European election. Neil also expressed his gratitude to local Alliance Councillors and MLA, Stephen Farry, for keeping such a high profile and for taking principled stands on difficult issues throughout the year.

At the election of officers, Neil Dickey stepped down as chair and was replaced in the role by Andrew Muir. Commenting on his election as chair Andrew Muir stated, “It is an honour to be elected as chair for North Down Alliance Association for the incoming year. Alliance is the party that is best placed to deliver a shared future for Northern Ireland. For the last 40 years it has fought for cross-community consensus and non-sectarian politics. It has prioritised bread and butter politics over the politics of orange and green.

“North Down has been traditionally one of the strongest areas for Alliance and has benefited from a high level of Alliance public representation. It is important that we build on this success in the coming year and ensure that North Down achieves the best level of representation at all levels of public life.”

Also elected into office were Jean Green as President, Neil Dickey as vice-chair, Michael Watts as secretary, Chris Mackey as treasurer, Bryan Ardill as membership secretary and Michael Bower as media officer.

After the election of officers Cllr Marsden Fitzsimons gave a short and engaging talk on the Christian heritage of Bangor.

28 January 2010

Muir condemns Nazi graffiti

Local community activist and Alliance Party North Down Vice Chair has condemned the recent appearance of Nazi graffiti in Ward Park, Bangor.

The graffiti included a number of Nazi Swastikas in the vicinity of the Cenotaph and was reported to Andrew by a local Bangor resident via the social networking site Twitter.

Commenting on the development, Andrew stated "Graffiti is very often unsightly but in this case it is also extremely offensive. Many people commemorated at The Cenotaph died fighting Nazi tyranny. Those who painted the Swastikas should remember that without the heroic actions of the men and women commemorated in Ward Park they would not be able to enjoy the freedoms that continue to endure today. There is no place for intolerance and anti semitism in North Down and I condemn the appearance of this graffiti outright."

Concluding, Andrew stated "I am particularly thankful that North Down Borough Council promptly removed this graffiti. The incident has also been reported to the Police. Hate has no place in North Down."

19 January 2010

Compulsory voting

The Ulster Unionist Party today proposed a motion at the NI Assembly calling upon to the government to consider making it compulsory to vote in Northern Ireland.

Whilst it is concerning that many people don't vote making them turn up at the Polling Station isn't, in my opinion, the solution.

Experience from other countries who have compulsory voting indicates that enforcement of the legislation is particularly difficult. Apart from being a waste of time and money introducing compulsory voting in NI would rightly be seen by the electorate as an arrogant measure from aloof politicians forcing their electorate to engage with a political set-up that desperately needs shook up.

In the last Assembly election 46% North Down's electorate didn't vote.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a significant proportion of these electors have moderate views and didn't vote because they are disillusioned with politics. If these people did vote Northern Ireland would be very very different but, unfortunately, they don't vote and we have the current set-up at Stormont and in Council chambers across NI dominated by parties such as the DUP and Sinn Fein who are obsessed proving their Unionist or Nationalist credentials whilst everyday life continues and Northern Ireland remains in a recession.

Rather than introducing illiberal legislation and telling the electorate what to do the Ulster Unionist Party should instead examine why people aren't bothering to vote and work with other parties, such as the Alliance Party, to shake-up politics and engage with the electorate to deliver a new form of politics which inspires and looks to the future rather than the past.
18 January 2010

NI Assembly Motion

That this Assembly notes the positive effect that compulsory voting has had on democracy in the Commonwealth of Australia; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to consider introducing similar rules for elections in the United Kingdom.