A wee while ago I was talking to a journalist about identity.
‘So if you don’t feel British and you don’t feel Irish what do you feel? Are you one of those people who would identify as primarily Northern Irish’
It was something that had been rattling around in my brain for a while but it hadn’t been formulated into sentences, so my answer was peppered with ‘Erm’s and ‘God I don’t know maybe…’s, but it went something like this.
Actually I kind of hate that ‘Northern Irish’ identity stuff. It’s as if someone took Rory McIllroy, James Nesbitt, Cafe Vaudeville, Ulster Tatler and Snow Patrol and decided that it should form a new identity. Most of the time it feels to me as if it’s trying to disassociate itself from the grittier, edgier, angrier part of our psyche that is so central to everything I connect with. Most of all it feels painfully middle class.
I’ll get back to this. As most of you will know that I recently joined the Green Party and have been knocking on doors in my constituency in East Belfast and I’ve been asked why people should vote for the Greens and not the Alliance. Bearing in mind that I’ve posted two blogs about STV and how it works without explicitly nailing my colours to the mast, as a party member I kinda felt I should do that before we go to the polls.
So with a kind nod to all the great people that I know working in other parties here’s my take on why you vote the Green Party number 1 tomorrow, (and in particular in East Belfast).
(I’m going to assume that you want to move beyond Orange and Green. I’m assuming that you care more about the NHS and your kids schools, equality, the arts and real life more than a flag. If not this blog is not for you.)
The main reason I joined the Green Party is because I believe they are the ONLY party that has represented my views as a atheist. They’re not an atheist party and there are tons of members who are religious but they leave their religion at the door and understand that church and state should be separate. When I elect someone I expect them to represent me first and not defer their mandate to their personal beliefs. I feel in particular the Alliance has failed to deal with this and this is the main differential for me between the parties. While Long has tried to lead on some of these issues, many of their MLAs are still fervently opposed to changes in reproductive health legislation in particular.
I guess to me APNI are a coalition of people who know what they don’t want. They know that they want to move forward in some abstract way, away from the past and division. This is great and they’re doing great work I will transfer to them as a result but I want to vote for something a bit more radical than that, I think Northern Ireland needs something a bit more radical than that.
So while I have nothing against Rory McIllroy and I think Snow Patrol are lovely lads with some great tunes that’s not where I find my energy. That’s not where I want to draw the lines of my identity. I consider myself a citizen of planet earth and a proud angry Belfastian and I see those values most represented in the Green Party. We’re a product of a world wide movement not a Northern Irish sub-culture and BY GOD I want more than anything to hitch my wagon to an ideology that looks beyond these islands.
In East Belfast we were very close to getting a Green MLA last time and our vote share has surged since then as people begin to realise that voting Green can lead to MLAs but your whole vote transfers if it doesn’t. Add to this the fact that the APNI aren’t running a third candidate this time and there’s a chance, it might be slim, but we NEED your first preferences. Pretty much everyone accepts that the DUP and APNI are going to get 2 seats each and there’s a chance we can get the fifth with enough first preferences.
The Greens were ahead of the curve on equal marriage, woman’s rights, RHI, children’s welfare etc etc. I’m happy to reward a party who have been catching up on these things with a transfer but I’m going to campaign and vote for a party that is leading not catching up.
In conclusion, to return to identity, I’m sort of British, I’m sort of Irish, I’m (if you really must) sort of Northern Irish, but more than that I’m a product of the people I connect with and love. I’m a citizen of the world, I’m a dreamer, I’m anti-capitalist and I believe in people from all backgrounds.
So because of this, because of who I am, I chose new kind of politics.
Tomorrow I choose Green Party Number One.
…after that I will #VoteTillYouBoke