THE BLOG

Northern Ireland's Big Decision

01/03/2017 15:22 GMT | Updated 01/03/2017 15:22 GMT
Geri Lavrov via Getty Images

This Thursday there's an election in Northern Ireland - one unforeseen but incredibly important. The power sharing assembly has broken down, with old school infighting being the norm ever since. Parties have lowered themselves into "he said/she said" categories, using the RHI scandal for the blame game but still not tackling everything else wrong in this small land - for there are other issues at stake, important matters that can shape what happens here for generations.

I'm not saying getting angry about wasting public money isn't well founded - but even if it's resolved, our country is still in need of help. The PR machines in Stormont want you to be distracted, to head to the polls with one big angry issue in mind, but you must look at the promises they're talking about. You must ask how reasonable they are. You must DO YOUR RESEARCH. There is simply no excuse to always vote the one way - we all mature, we all have priorities that take precedence throughout the years, therefore we should see our political alliances as free flowing, able to adapt.

Things in politics move at a snail's pace. Change is often talked about but is so slow to come. There is more to living in Northern Ireland than Unionism and Nationalism. We've been wound up, our democracy held for ransom by Green/Orange politics for so long that sometimes it's hard to see there are other options - we can actually choose better public servants, demand fairer outcomes. However, that simply will not happen unless you (a), VOTE, and (b) use that vote to bring in people who will serve a mandate that improves lives everywhere.

Social housing is a huge concern. Segregation in schools is shocking - we shouldn't have young people growing up seeing differences in others, especially when we have history to prove it doesn't work. We can't have a whole generation regurgitating past lies, continually assuming that there are only two communities who count here.

The LGBT community needs to know that they are safe to live, work, and love without prejudice. Equality for all literally means for everyone - no matter what, no one is left out.

Women want autonomy for their own bodies. As a woman myself, I think it's crazy that we're not given the choice of when and if I have a child. Poorer women here are systematically held down by our draconian abortion law* - on average it'll cost around £1000 to go for a day procedure in the UK, yet if they lived across the water it would be free. I wonder how many futures are held back simply because that amount is unreachable?

Safer, cleaner streets are required. The transport system needs improvement. Bar and club licensing laws need brought into the new century, especially in Belfast if we're to improve our tourism - any other city in the world manages it, why can't we?

Rural hospitals are in serious trouble of closure when more and more people depend on them. In Belfast the Royal and Ulster hospitals are overrun at times because we stretch staffing and funding too thinly.

Our elderly need compassion, our children need something to grow up for and the rest of us deserve to live full lives with an improving economy without fear of violence reoccurring because a few don't get their way.

Organised religion is good for some, but not all. If it divides generations, if it covers up abuse and terrorism then it is not on a moral high ground and it certainly shouldn't be involved in politics. And yet it is - you can see it in all of the so called 'major' parties - who, by the way are only 'major' because they generally get by with the biggest of the small amount of votes.

Of the voting public last election, only 54.2%** actually cast their ballot. The DUP got 29% and Sinn Fein got 24% of that 54.2% - not quite the entire country is it? Not the so called "majority" they boast about. We can do better.

You'll all have points to make, your own debates within. If your usual party doesn't fight for what you want now, then find out who does. You don't need to be LGBT, or a female, or have children to care about the issues that will affect them. If you're to succeed, so must we all.

This Thursday our potential for change is greater than ever. Don't assume your vote doesn't count, the political upheaval around the globe is proof that it does. Make a stand, show up for yourself and for those who need your help. Make our democracy and our little place in the world mean something positive again - we're worth more than we've been used to, and the responsibility for making our future brighter is a privilege we shouldn't give up easily.

* Ruled incompatible with Human Rights by a High Court Judge

**From the BBC NI 2016 election results.