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General Election: East Belfast - It’s time to get back to work... voters’ message to politicians as the dust settles

East Belfast

By Rachel Martin

As voters hit the polls once again across Northern Ireland, in East Belfast the sentiment was clear - it's time to get back to work.

The spotlight was on this constituency, where Alliance leader Naomi Long was aiming to reclaim the seat she lost to the DUP's Gavin Robinson in 2015.

The last election saw the highest turnout at some polling stations since the Good Friday Agreement.

Andrew Sailes, a security man (27) from Dundonald, said he always votes for the DUP and usually for the same people.

"They do a lot in the local community," he said. "There have been times where they have helped to get the roads fixed around here and replace some of the old street signs."

But salesman Joe Clarke (23) said it was time for change.

He said: "I vote for Alliance, they're a more progressive party. If you want to move forward you have to vote for a progressive party.

"I feel like the other parties are a bit like footballers kicking a ball about."

Meanwhile, mum Julia Patterson brought Rowan the assistance dog and children Jamie (9) and Lani (4) along with her to vote at Belmont Controlled Infant School.

She said her vote would only go to politicians who campaign for the equality of disabled people.

She said: "Our oldest son has autism and ADHD so the rights of carers and access to support like respite care are all very important to us.

"Jamie can't wait to be old enough to vote, but he's got a while to go - he's got another nine years to wait.

"He's very interested in politics and he reads everything which comes in the door, in fact he wanted to vote differently from me this time. A lot of his interest has been sparked by Brexit and we have been trying to explain what it all means to him."

Brian Millar and daughter Esther (18), a second time voter from Belmont, said they were frustrated at the lack of action since the last election.

"We need to get someone who is going to do something instead of someone who will take the money and not do anything. This is a national election but so many issues are devolved now, and if we don't have an Assembly, what's the point in that? They need to get into Stormont and do something before we are left behind completely."

Esther voted for the first time in the Assembly election in March, but the Executive never got up and running again after talks failed to reach agreement.

"I feel like it was a bit of a waste because the last time I voted they didn't really do anything afterwards," she said.

"I'm interested in politics and want to see a better future for Northern Ireland, so that's why I've come out today."

Richard Clark, an engineer, and son Connor (21) from Dundonald had come out together to vote. They have different concerns about the big issues but both think it's time politicians got back into action.

Melanie Rintoul from Belmont was suffering from voter fatigue but was encouraging her son Stanley's interest in politics by bringing him along.

"Everyone's sick of elections," she said. "Everyone's sick of being told 'one side vote this way, one side vote the other'.

"I think people should just vote based on issues rather than for the parties.

"Politics has developed here but most people still vote along the same old lines. It'd be better if everyone was an independent candidate, that way they would vote for what they actually want, rather than party politics." She said her son Stanley (10) had taken an interest in what goes on at the polls.

"He likes to see who I am going to vote for, he takes a big interest in it," she added.

But Colin McKeown, a design consultant from Dundonald, said the whole UK political system needed to change radically.

"Personally, I'm very sad that we don't have - even in England - a mature political system, which is more than just the usual 'I can do it better than them, everything they do is terrible'," he said.

"We have serious issues in this country to face and I'm sick, sore and tired of politicians talking about reversing Brexit. It's done and we need to move on."

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