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Look beyond the labels and vote for a candidate with real values

By Alf McCreery

A clergyman from the Caleb Foundation has asked his evangelical colleagues to vote in the election for candidates who honour God, and oppose same-sex marriage and abortion.

The same advice is given by the Roman Catholic Church in their lengthy message to voters. I wonder what our reaction would be if someone asked us to vote for candidates who broadly supported Christian values in general.

No doubt there are MLAs who claim to be Christians, and DUP members are quick to quote scripture, to the point of ramming it down our throats.

What are 'Christian values'? I draw your attention to an admirable passage from the New Testament:

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

Challenged with maintaining such standards, few of us would give ourselves high marks, except those vain enough to think that they scored quite well, and therefore missed the whole point of the exercise.

It's easy to criticise the politicians, partly because they show us some of their worst traits in full view of the television cameras.

They come across too often as self-seeking, vain, argumentative, lacking vision, often stupid, generally unattractive, and not the kind of people with whom you would want to spend time unless you had to.

In private life, the vast majority may be warm-hearted human beings in the eyes of their families and friends.

However, when they move into their political role there is a sad transformation.

Those of us who bother to watch Stormont cannot but be appalled by the mutual loathing between the main political parties, and the shrill hectoring from some members of the opposition.

Politics is a rough business, but does it have to sink to such a low level here in Northern Ireland?

Most of our public representatives pay only lip service to their aim of working for all the people, and their real interest is doing down the "other side", and retaining as much power as they can for themselves.

It is also amazing how they still fail to realise how much they are resented by the electorate who watch helplessly as the politicians move effortlessly into confrontation mode at every opportunity.

I will vote with a heavy heart next week because I believe in democracy, but not necessarily in the role of many of the people whom we will reluctantly send back to Stormont, if there is another Assembly.

The DUP remains conspicuously leaderless in real terms, and it is cynically playing the Orange card, because it is shambolic and has nothing else to offer.

Sinn Finn, with its smooth-suited and arrogant spokespeople, is not really interested in making Northern Ireland work, and bores on relentlessly to its aim of a united Ireland, at any cost.

The opposition parties offer some hope of change but I wonder how many people will have the courage to vote across party lines?

I hope, nevertheless, that the opposition parties will continue to underline the stark reality of the incompetence and scandal of the RHI debacle.

Sadly, however, when it comes to the crunch, too many people including councillors who should know better would vote for a sack of potatoes provided it had an orange or green sash.

All of which seems a long way off promoting 'Christian' values at Stormont. At its most simple, Christianity means respecting your neighbour and trying to work honestly to make this a better place for everybody.

So try to look beyond the labels, and vote for the candidate who is most likely to bring respect and conciliation politics to our troubled land.

That's the kind of person I will vote for, but I will have to look hard to find the people who measure up to such nobility and vision.

These are standards which most of our politicians would not recognise even if they tripped over them.

Perhaps we are not such "a great wee place" after all.

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