This Isn’t Goodbye


A few short hours ago we said goodbye to my best friend, my hero and the best man I ever knew. My father passed away peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family, holding my mother’s hand.

Our hearts break but you are no longer in pain, nor will you ever be again. A life too full of heartache but one filled with love. We will miss you every day Dad but the time for sleep has come at last and we send you into the arms of God with a glad heart. I am so proud to call you my Dad.

You were the strongest person I knew. The bravest, the kindest and the man who instilled in my brother and I the qualities that make a good man. I only hope that we can live up to that example. Don’t worry about Mum, we will look out for her as she has looked out for us. This will be tough without you and my heart swells with pain, knowing that you will never sit in that daft old chair of yours again, but we will get through it together.

Sleep now, Dad. The time for tears is over and this world is better for have known your kindness and your love. 💙

Miss you with all my heart, until we meet again x

The DUP & SDLP Can’t Wrap Their Arms Around The Abortion Problem

In a recent leader’s debate on UTV the leaders of the five main political parties in Northern Ireland were all asked about their response to the conviction and suspended sentence that was handed down to an unnamed young woman who had procured pills to induce an abortion – I’ll come to that in a second but here’s a bit of backstory for you. I like to get you all caught up before I delve into a serious rant.

Despite the fact that abortion is completely legal in mainland Britain, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, the 1861 Offences Against The Persons Act is the law of the land in Northern Ireland in matters concerning terminations of pregnanies. It is a criminal act in Northern Ireland in 2016 to procure an abortion or assist someone in obtaining an abortion – the only other option is to travel to the mainland to have the procedure which isn’t free (unless you’re a resident of England, Scotland or Wales) but it is safe, and it is legal. It is not a crime for Northern Irish women to access abortion procedures in other jurisdictions.

Earlier in 2016 a young woman was reported to the PSNI for inducing an abortion through abortifacent pills that she had requested online. She was subsequently convicted and given a suspended three month prison sentence. The issue, of course, has generated much debate which has become a key issue in the lead up to the 2016 NI Assembly elections with all parties and almost all candidates declaring which side of the debate they are on. Arguably these positions should have been clarified long, long before devolution even became a reality but we are where we are. In responding to the question on whether or not the young woman in question should have been criminalised for her actions both the Arlene Foster and Colum Eastwood claimed that as a society we should “wrap our arms” around young women in a crisis – so why then did they sink any attempt to amend the existing laws when the opportunity presented itself during the amendments to the Justice Bill?

We cannot hope for our judges to show leniancy and compassion if and when another vulnerable woman is brought to a courtroom for taking matters into her own hands. Personally expressing your concern and hoping for compassion whilst stopping short of changing the law to prevent those situations even ocurring when you have been in a position to do so is bare faced electoral opportuism. It’s cowardice and it does not help the almost one thousand women who had to travel to Great Britain to access abortion care. Women have been pushed to the brink by having to self-medicate for a healthcare issue and face a criminal record for doing so. The current law as it stands is unfit for purpose and both the SDLP and DUP’s leaders can gush their hearts out until they are blue in the face on TV when asked about criminalising of abortion but the fact of the matter is that we are in a situation where we could potentially have a woman be handed a life sentence for procuring and using abortion pills. The current law allows for such and the SDLP, DUP and even the Alliance Party, Sinn Fein and UUP have fallen way short of providing the type of legislative compassion and leadership that is needed.

Simply leaving the matter down to the individual conscience of elected reps or only pushing for abortion in certain circumstances is not brave or sensible. They are opt-outs dressed as compromises. The main parties have all voiced their opposition to the extension to Northern Ireland of the 1967 Abortion Act (which regulates the issue in Wales, Scotland and England) when asked about reforming the current laws here however that is a non-issue and a clever side-stepping of the issue. With a Conservative majority Government in Westminster which may rely on the support of SDLP, DUP and pro-life UUP MPs to see off backbench rebellions there is next to no chance that the Secretary for State will move unilaterally on the matter without calling into question the undermining of devolved issues and royally pissing off the DUP. What Northern Ireland needs is for our MLAs to legislate for the matter in the Assembly and do the right thing and worry about the frankly irrelevant electoral impact in 2019.

I suspect the issue will dent the SDLP more than the DUP in their stronger areas such as South and North Belfast – especially amongst younger voters. This was an opportunity for Colum Eastwood to outflank Alliance and the UUP but it looks like more of the same, unfortunately.

Doing the right thing and doing the popular thing are seldom the same however the matter of abortion has saturated the airwaves and become a key battleground for political parties in Northern Ireland – forty nine years after the rest of the United Kingdom agreed that it was better for women to have safe, free and legal access to medical care rather than hope for the best by consulting Google and procuring tablets on the internet.

Women On Web Website Blocked? Here’s How To Access It

NOTE: All information below is taken from the Women on Web website here:

In some countries, you might find that the Women on Web website is censored. Here you can read about several ways you can try to circumvent the blockage.

world map freedom of information

Send an email and ask for the online consultation or any other information. 

For android phone users: You can also download the Women on Waves safe abortion app from google play store and complete the online consultation there.

You can send an email to and ask for the consultation or general information about medical abortion. The form will be emailed to you. Please always check your spam box for the reply.

You can also download and use the TOR browser

If the Tor Project’s official website and mirrors are also blocked, you can use TOR GetTor via SMTP (email). Send an email to with one of the following options in the body of the message:

  • windows: If the user needs Tor Browser for Windows.
  • linux: If the user needs Tor Browser for Linux.
  • osx: If the user needs Tor Browser for Mac OS X.

GetTor robot will reply with links to download Tor Browser.


Try to redirect with a short URL


Sometimes the URL’s are blocked but you can access the website’s through a short URL.

For Women on Web you can try the following short URL’

For Women on Waves you can try the following short URL’s:


Use an anonymous surfing site


You can use downloads from Tor Project  or Tails

Here you can find lists of websites that offer anonymous surfing

90+ Proxy Websites To Access Blocked Websites and 

If you click on any of the websites on these lists and fill in, you should be able to access the website.


Use online translations services to bypass the block


Go to one of the Online translation services like AltaVista, BabelFish, Google Translate and fill or   and click translate even if you don’t need to and Google or AltaVista  or Babelfish will fetch the website.

We Need A Radical, United Left

NOTE: This is a work of fiction and idealism and not a serious proposal for a new way of thinking.

Okay so we’ve all heard it before, a radical left wing alternative the austerity driven politics of the current mainstream Westminster clique. We’ve even heard from within the same clique in the vein of Jeremy Corbyn and his ability to command the respect of his own MPs never mind the country remains to be seen. We have too many left-wing alternatives in the UK and Ireland and frankly the watered down collective of barking opposition needs to come to a decision: either they unite as one movement with one vision and message or we fade away into obscurity, relegated to anti-war, anti-austerity and anti-cuts protests with no representation at a local, devolved or state level.

How does that help us? Well it doesn’t. Instead we’ll be represented by diverse, leaderless and rudderless ‘grass roots’ movements suffering from the effects of splits and mergers and dissolutions for generations. One thing the left has always been good at is losing and its inability to organise to oppose its real enemies instead of denouncing each other. In house fighting benefits us not. The Tories and UKIP represent the centre and the further right of the political spectrum in the UK. That’s it. Smaller fringe movements like the BNP and Britain First represent the very worst that the right has to offer but mainstream right-wing parties such as the Conservatives know that those micro-movements will never dent their vote nor will they undermine them in swing seats the way UKIP might and even then it’s likely that the Conservatives would enter into a coalition with UKIP should they need to – they wouldn’t do that with the BNP or BF.

What I’m saying here is that the right is relatively stable and has successfully marginalized those fringe elements to the point that they aren’t even associated with the likes of the Conservatives. The left hasn’t got the same luxury of distance and it lacks a clear vision and message. Many parties like the Anti-Austerity Alliance, Socialist Party and Left Unity don’t have a leader. They are run by a collective or a leadership team with a rotating chair or presidency. That’s fine in a utopian society and God knows we need fairness and transparency but with no real figurehead or guiding voice then what hope do we have of any electoral success?

I no longer consider the Labour Party of either the UK or Ireland to be left wing in the sense that I believe is desperately needed. Nor do I want a Syriza style project of opposition for it’s own sake. We need radical yet relatable policies that can be sold to the electorate and that stand up under scrutiny. I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn is the man to do that and he has a mixed bag of Blairites and former Marxists and Social Democrats that he needs to bring together into some form of cohesive opposition before he can extend an olive branch to the non-Westminster left.

There are several parties that, already, have the potential to work together in Parliament and it makes no sense to me that they stand candidates against each other when their aims are broadly similar in nature. Parties like the Lib Dems, Labour, The Greens and to a lesser extent the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru all share broadly similar aims when it comes to environmental issues, and social justice. The issue between them though is that they haven’t learned how to effectively use the Westminster electoral system to take advantage of where the common ground lies and instead they split the moderate and progressive vote to within an inch of its life. Let’s look at an example; take the Westminster constituency of Brighton Kemptown:


Here we have four different parties (Labour, Greens, SNP and to a lesser extent the Socialist Party) splitting the left wing, progressive vote and letting the Conservatives slide in with a slim majority of 690 votes. Had the Lib Dems, Labour and the Greens supported an electoral pact by standing a candidate for the party with the strongest historical performance in the constituency they would have taken it with a majority of 3,931 and a left wing candidate returned to the Constituency for the first time since 2005. The case is the same in the Welsh Westminster constituency of Gower where the Conservatives have a slim majority of 27, the smallest majority in the 2015 General Election. Had there been a unified platform of the left and liberal left then they could have held the constituency with 5,840 votes. Ironically one of the parties that contested that constituency was the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition which is an umbrella electoral organisation made up of leftist, anti-austerity parties and movements. The situation repeated itself in Derby North, Croydon Central, Bury North, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, Thurrock, Telford, Eastbourne, Dumfriesshire  Clydesdale & Tweeddale, Bolton West, Weaver Vale, Plymouth Moor View, Lewes, Bedford, Lincoln, Thornbury & Yate, Twickenham, Cardiff North, Southampton Itchen, Waveney, Corby, St Ives, Southampton Itchen and Kingston & Surbiton.

When looked at objectively there are enough marignal seats won by Conservatives because of a split progressive/left-liberal vote to have denied David Cameron a second term if there was a broad platform under which joint-candidates could have been elected. That being said the feeling of spurned nationalist pride in Scotland would never have allowed the SNP to allow Labour a free run in any of the 56 constituencies it now holds nor would Labour or the Greens allowed the same of the Liberal Democrats after what many people consider Nick Clegg’s betrayal of the trust of the people when he entered into a coalition with the Conservatives. If we have a re-run of the 2015 General election in 2020 then we would see a Labour dominated Government in coalition with the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens and with the Lib Dems working with the coalition on a supply and demand arrangement. I don’t expect the Lib Dems would ever voluntarily sacrifice centrist economic policy for political powr. Granted that is a broad coalition of factional parties but if Labour are willing to lurch to the left and if Corbyn can command his MPs then why not? Nicola Sturgeon has already said that she would work with any party to deny the Conservatives the keys to No. 10 and I see no sign of the SNP’s unified electoral machine waning between now and 2020 (That’s if we don’t have another independence referendum before then). The Greens could demand a role for their MP(s) in DEFRA, SNP in the Scotland Office and greater devolution concessions, likewise for PC in Wales and the Lib Dems could insist that Labour implement a radical social justice programme.

For that to work there has to be a hell of a lot of tongue biting and sacrficing of core voters in some areas. There would need to be an agreed manifesto for this new platform of the left to work with something akin to a ten point plan that all the parties would have to commit to. Labour would have to concede defeat to the SNP in Scotland, at least for a while, and the Greens & Lib Dems likewise to Labour in areas where they are the cause of a split vote. In order for that to work Labour would need to radically rebrand itself and give major concessions to those parties as the idea of a Labour majority government ever making it back into power is now more distant than ever. Corbyn will need to extend an olive branch to those fringe movements and parties such as the Worker’s Party, Socialist Party, Left Unity etc that all share his anti-austerity ideals and his progressive aspirations if this is to work – and again this is just my idea and not something that I am planning on organising – but if the left and the progressives stay as divided as this then what hope do we have?

What’s more likely to happen though is that as Labour goes further left the Blairite MP’s in its ranks will feel more and more isolated and I think a split is on the cards within 2 years when a leadership challenge against Corbyn by one of those MPs fails. Perhaps they’ll form a new party or resurrect the SDP? Maybe they’ll defect to a resurgent LibDem team? Labour will continue to chase the votes it lost to the SNP in Scotland and whilst it may retake one or two marginal seats it will become clear after the 2016 Holyrood elections that Labour’s game in Scotland is over. With another Scottish independence referendum likely before 2020 and if it decides to go it alone then we can kiss goodbye to any SNP opposition in Westminster.

The Lib Dems will never enter into any serious coalition with parties such as the Greens or the Socialists under one banner and vice versa. The Lib Dems are a party that voted for welfare cuts and that legacy will likely make them toxic for further left wing parties to associate with. Likeiwse the Lib Dems would never take fringe parties like Left Unity and the TUSC as serious partners.

Unfortunately the scenario I have proposed is pie in the sky. Politics is much too fractured and egotistic in nature for any rainbow coalition to actually work together.

I’m 27 and I Don’t Want To Die Before I’m 40

I’m not writing this because I’m hungover or because I spent too much money on alcohol or because I did something I regret last night. I’m writing this because I have done all of those things way too often when drinking. At 27 years old I’m not as healthy and fit as I should be, or could be and that is my fault.

I weigh just a hair under fourteen stone and I’m five foot, seven inches. I have an unhealthy BMI and according to my doctor my blood pressure is through the roof. My diet recently has spiralled from ‘a cheeky Chinese takeaway’ on a Friday night to snacking on biscuits, crips, soft drinks and eating processed food way too often. I used to smoke quite heavily and would have enjoyed a cigarette on a night out – usually I felt the need to nick a cigarette from a friend or a randomer in the smoking garden of whichever dive bar I ended up in and bent the ear off the poor sod standing beside me. If I was hungover the next day my daily routine would consist of something deep fried followed by something else deep fried followed by something fizzy and accompanied by something sweet until I felt ‘cured’ enough to sleep it off.

I’m tired of Sundays being a write off. My career as a writer depends on me being able to both focus on my work and let my hair down when both are appropriate – I can’t allow one to interfere with the other and I have often cited working too hard as a reason for drinking when in fact the opposite has been the case. That is a dangerous road that I don’t want to even attempt to have a nosey at. A week or so ago I woke up with incredibly painful sensations in my chest at around 3am. Thinking it was nothing major I tried to go back to sleep only to be woken up by the same pains a few hours later.

I made my way to A&E on the advice of the out of hours GP and spent the next five hours being looked at, prodded and tested by doctors in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. It scared the living crap out of me when they brought me through to to the Clinical Assessment Unit and a friendly nurse asked me if I needed anything to make me more comfortable. I looked around me and I was in a room with people that were properly sick and ill and it scared me to death.

In the end I was told that my diet and cigarette intake are slowly going to kill me and I need to do as much as I can to lower my blood pressure because it was through the roof. I’m 27 – I have a sedintary job and since around April this year a pretty sedintary lifestyle. I lost a ton of weight between 2013 and 2014 by exercising, eating right and going to the gym but a bad breakup and a depressive episode completely undid all that hard work and I am in a worse situation than I was 12 months ago. Clothes that fit me then do not fit me now and I can barely run a 5k on the treadmill at the gym on those rare occasions when I dare to darken their door. I’ve been told that I’m not allowed another cigarette – I know this is basic common sense but I’ve never had a doctor actually tell me that as a result of a medical assessment. It’s pretty scary, guys.

As far as alcohol goes apart from a glass of white wine with a meal or a cocktail on a night out I am not venturing much further into the liquor cabinet ever again. I have had too many incidents recently of not remembering large parts of my night, losing things, getting into arguments, spending all my money and wasting my Sundays consuming large amounts of garbage or hugging the toilet bowl. How is that enjoyable? Is that the measure of a good night out these days? How badly your phone is broken or how many keys you’ve managed to misplace? There is a serious drinking culture in this country and it is only since venturing out relatively sober that I’ve realised just how bad it is.

You lose all control of yourself and do and say things to other people that in any other circumstance would be completely unacceptable. There is more to life than consuming as much alcohol as humanly possible before a nigh out and then continuing to force what is essentially poison down your throat until you either pass out, vomit or both. I’m not having a go at anyone in particular here apart from myself but if this sounds familiar to you then you know that this isn’t healthy. What’s it worth? A decimated bank account, a fuzzy memory of what may or may not have been a good night and a crippling fear of what you may or may not have said to someone you care about? Add that to the multiple health implications of binge drinking and you are starting to erase yearsfrom your life.

Going out and not drinking is also an incredibly difficult thing to do in a society that puts more value on the impending hangover than on getting home safe. I can’t go out and not drink without being accosted by at least four or five people who insist – actually insist – that I drink or else I’m not enjoying myself. If I don’t want to drink or if someone else doesn’t want to drink then neither they nor I should have to make up an excuse as to why we don’t want to. That should be the end of your line of enquiry. I don’t want a fucking drink and that doesn’t mean you can’t drink, it just means I don’t want to. It is entirely possible to enjoy a night out with either one glass of wine, a non-alcoholic beer or a diet Coke. It doesn’t make me weak, it doesn’t make me any less interesting and if you depend on alcohol to feel both confident and interesting then you need to have a word with yourself. That is why I have stopped – I used to depend on alcohol to give me the buzz that I needed to feel like a champion and that is called addiction, folks (or at least the beginnings of it).

We are a nation of borderline alcoholics and it only takes a casual glance into any nightclub in Belfast on a Friday or Saturday night to see that. Having a table piled high with bottles of wine, vodka and whiskey that need to be consumed with inhuman abandon is not how I intend to have a good time any more. I’m not at all suggesting that everyone should stop drinking for the reasons that I have outlined but this is why *I* have decided to stop. I need to learn to appreciate the weekend without using alcohol. I need to learn how to have conversations after
5pm on a Friday without the use of a bottle of wine or a cigarette as an excuse to socialise.

I’m 27 and I don’t want to die from alcohol poisoning, liver failure or heart disease. And neither should you.

To My Friend – Naomi Long

I got involved in local politics just after the General Election in 2010. I watched as the political landscape changed dramatically with the Lib Dems walking into Downing Street with David Cameron and the Conservatives. I also watched with astonishment as Alliance Party deputy leader Cllr Naomi Long MLA bounced from coming in third place to unseating DUP leader Peter Robinson in Belfast East. The idea that one person could defy the odds, against every possible prediction, poll, pundit and probability and make a difference inspired me to want to do the same.

It made me want to do better for my city, for my community and for my country. At the time I was so inspired but also so intimidated by the sheer size of mainstream party politics that I did not join the Alliance Party and in June 2010 I submitted my membership form to the Green Party and for two years I cut my teeth devloping policy and campaigning for social justice within the small yet nimble environmentalist party. I had the pleasure of working with some incredibly passionate activists like Ross Brown, Claire Bailey and Steven Agnew but as time went on I knew that my heart and my head lay elsewhere.

I could not ignore the positive impact that Naomi was having in my own constituency as my MP. Standing up for the vulnerable, opposing draconian Lib/Con cuts to public spending, welfare and a strong track record on human rights, religious freedom, LGBT advocacy, carers, young people and a charismatic and warm character that was unlike any of the dull, grey men that I had met before. Sometime around late 2011, possibly early 2012 I became a volunteer with Belfast YMCA and became close friends and colleagues with a young woman by the name of Sian O’Neill. Through the dedication and passion that Sian exuded in her work with young people and by seeing the impact that working with people like Chris Lyttle and Naomi Long was having on her I knew I was missing out on something amazing. Naomi agreed to host our youth group on a visit to Westminster and it was around the same time that I took the plunge and joined the Alliance Party.

I immediately became involved with the local association and I can still remember how nervous I was as I spoke in front of Naomi and the local East Belfast Alliance team for the first time. A lot has changed since then and I am confident that Naomi can attest to just how hard it has become to shut me up. But when you feel passionately about something how can you keep quiet? I learned that from her.

I had the honour of being selected as one of two candidates for the DEA of Castlereagh East on the new Lisburn/Castlereagh super council along with Alliance stalwart Cllr Tim Morrow. I knew that if I wanted to make things better then it was time to pony up the dough and take a chance, put my neck on the line and #StepForward (see what I did there?). The campaign was exhausting, tiring and at times it felt as though it would be easier to throw in the towel and give into defeat weeks before polling day but I knew that if Naomi could keep working through the intimidation and threats of the flag protests, Loyalist paramilitaries and the nasty, bully boy tactics of Unionist politicians then who the hell was I to give up?

We have had our disagreements, we have had our victories and we have had laughter over the last three years but I can’t thank Naomi, her husband Michael and the Alliance family in East Belfast for the support, be that emotional, personal, professional or political, during some of the toughest days I have faced as a human being. I can’t thank Naomi enough for her good wishes, her kind words and for coming out in the pissing rain on a cold day in April to knock doors for me in Ballybeen estate whilst I was handling a full time job, a full time election campaign and looking after my father who was gravely ill. I want to thank her on behalf of my family and my community for the work she has done for us since 2010, standing up for us when we needed someone to stand up for us. Resolute, dignified, brave.

Yes, that’s the word I would use to describe Naomi if anyone would ask – brave.

I have had the pleasure and the privilege of being involved with perhaps the most ambitious and well oiled campaign this country has ever seen. I am immensely proud of the team of staff – Sian, Sam, Nuala, Sharon, Ben – all of the office staff at HQ, that of Chris Lyttle and Judith Cochrane and the dozens of volunteers who day after day spurred each other on to knock each door, walk every street and shake every hand to deliver on a future that the people of East Belfast deserved but did not hold. A special thanks should also be given to David and his wife Anne for their leadership, support and courage. We can hold our heads high for a dignified, honest and heartfelt campaign the likes of which has never been seen before.

Naomi you are my mentor and colleague, a constant inspiration to myself and many thousands of others both in East Belfast and far beyond. I have never met a woman of such character, grace and strength even when faced with impossible odds, a sustained campaign of harassment, abuse and political misrepresentation. There are so many things I want to thank Naomi for, but most importantly I want to thank you for being my friend. I look forward to seeing how you will continue to propel us forwards and I am confident that whilst this is only a temporary setback for Northern Ireland, the brightest days are yet to come.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead


Big House Unionism Is Not Loyalism

I will probably court a bit of controversy with this piece but I need to make a few things clear first. I wouldn’t declare myself a Loyalist in the same sense of the word as Billy Hutchinson or Winkie Irvine but it’s definitely in my blood, it formed the backbone of my upbringing and cultural identity and I have my sympathies and common heritage with Loyalism. I go to the Orange parades on the 12th July, I observe Remembrance Day, I go to the bonfires on the 11th night. I have my differences of opinion from many Loyalists on issues around parades, flags and paramilitarism and I have addressed those when I have been asked about them but I am a working class Protestant from East Belfast with family members serving in the security forces, Orange Order and Unionist organisations. Loyalism and its many facets has never been far from my own identity. Does that mean I support the Union

So why join Alliance and not the PUP? I’ll be completely honest, when Ieft the Greens in 2012 I seriously considered my options as to what party I wanted to get involved in. I had a real thirst for community engagement and politics and I had no intention of ending it 3 years ago. Both the PUP and Alliance crossed my mind but, amongst other things, I could not reconcile being a member of the Progressive Unionists whilst they still retained links with the UVF. I am a man of non violence and unashamedly so, the PUP to me were a political wing of Loyalist paramilitaries and I didn’t want to be a part of that. I however felt more inclined to support their policies and their ethos of community building, representing working class people and their left-leaning stance on issues such as welfare reform, community project funding etc but I knew that identity, whilst important to me, was never the most important thing to me.

I believe in a bigger picture of working towards what’s best for the country as a whole whilst putting your own ambitions and aspirations to one side. To me that doesn’t include working for one community or another, and too long have I felt that this city is a city of four districts when it should be, and should always have been, a city of equals under one banner. 06c2628072e411e2ad1922000a1cbd31_7 Yes, the principles of Loyalism support this view as well (equal citizenship, pluralism over religious dominance, respect for democratic pursuit of constitutional change, a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, active citizenship, equal access in a multi-faith, multi-cultural society, rights for all regardless of sexual orientation, religion, disability etc) but the principles of Big House Unionism do not. How many of the things I have just mentioned are in fact actively opposed by the DUP? Or to a lesser extent the UUP? Most if not all of them. The DUP opposes equal rights for LGBT citizens in NI, it has opposed a Bill of Rights, it has aggressively implemented welfare reform,  it has insisted on the dominance of Christianity within its political ideology, it has expressed opposition to a multi-faith, multi-cultural society, it has spent vast sums of public money on private vendettas against LGBT people, it has used the Union and the ridiculous insinuation that its end is imminent as a weapon to stoke tension and fear. It has used the Union flag, my flag, to scare people into believing their identity and culture is about to be taken from them.

My conclusion? The DUP purports to represent working class Protestants and bases itself in the homes of ordinary working class Loyalists but it is not a party for Loyalists. I have lived in East Belfast all my life, we have had 30+ years of DUP dominance and the only thing we have to show for it is a struggling local economy, deprived communities, educational underachievement, political stagnation, shortage of housing, basic amenities and a crumbling civic infrastructure. The DUP are not the party of the working class and never will be. They may have Councillors that come from the same community that I did and that’s all well and good but until their leadership can grasp the message that they are completely out of touch with these communities then they will continue to drift away from political engagement altogether. But perhaps that’s what they want? Keep the malaise up and the hope down. It doesn’t benefit the DUP leadership to have an informed, confident, secure and prosperous electorate in East Belfast or anywhere else.

They thrive on the politics of fear, of zero sum identity charades around flags, parades, the past etc. I have seen next to no policies of the DUP or even the UUP to encourage economic, educational and social prosperity in working class communities. As someone who has been unemployed, raised by parents who depended on benefits to survive and a decent grasp of what my community needs I don’t see it within the structures or blue sky thinking of Big House Unionism at all. They are sheep in Loyalists’ clothing and people will see right through that.