Ex-union chief Peter Bunting warns against voter apathy
Communities will lose out if apathy is the winner in next month's Assembly election, a former trade union chief has said.
Peter Bunting took the unusual step of intervening in an election campaign to urge people to come out and vote.
The well-known civic leader also warned against the consequences of a return to direct rule from Westminster, which he claimed could include the privatisation of health services, drastic cuts in the welfare state and abolition of basic protection rights for workers.
"You may not agree with some of the policies enacted by the Assembly, but at least you have a say in those policies by voting in the election for or against MLAs and their parties," he said. "(That) would disappear under direct rule."
The veteran campaigner urged voters to "cast aside" their green or orange ideologies, but also to recognise that Stormont needed to be supported.
He said: "Devolution has created a secure sense of identity for those who see themselves as British, or Irish, or Northern Irish.
"We need to support Stormont in order to achieve a changed Stormont for the better.
"As we are all aware, there will be, as there has always been, people who will not bother to vote in the upcoming Assembly Election.
"Their excuses range from being tired of the traditional, tribal in-fighting or, more worryingly, 'Our Assembly is useless and has done nothing for me'.
"Not to use your vote is, in my opinion, a surrender of your democratic right and, more importantly, it will result in the loss of something valuable, which you may regret in the future."
The Executive had meant no extra water charges, no £9,000 per year university fees, free prescription charges for all, free public transport for pensioners, no bedroom tax or amelioration of other welfare cuts and more publicly owned social housing, he claimed.
"Under direct rule, the people would have no say in any of the above," Mr Bunting, the former assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, concluded.