In our final canvass of voters in two urban ‘villages’ Noel McAdam and Brendan McDaid return to the unionist heartland of Belfast’s Donegall Road and nationalist Culmore in Londonderry
On the ground politics is slowly changing in Northern Ireland. It is not so very long ago that a senior Sinn Fein member would not have been able to attend meetings in unionist areas.
But at a hustings event in the strongly loyalist Donegall Road Village area of Belfast, republican Alex Maskey was cheered after saying working class communities need to work together. And yet he can expect no unionist votes. Residents, however, say they took note of the comments from a panel which also included DUP, Ulster Unionist, SDLP and Alliance representatives, and insist they will keep them to their word.
Tommy Wilson, a 59-year-old voluntary community worker, said:
“It was a very stormy meeting which was what we expected and the politicians were given a rough ride. Some people didn’t even know who some of them were — they had never seen them before. I think Ruth Patterson (DUP) came out well, but Alex Maskey has also been to the forefront and I would say people have begun to take him as a person rather than his party.”
Sharon Stewart, a 52-year-old full-time carer for her grown-up son who has severe learning difficulties, said:
“A lot of people round here would go to Sinn Fein with housing problems but I would not, personally. A lot of things have happened in this area that shouldn’t have happened and the politicians weren’t being held to account.”
Anne Crowe, a 52-year-old domestic in the City Hospital, said:
“We took a wee note of what they said but as usual I feel they tell you whatever they need to get your vote and then you don’t see them again. The most pro-active person who was on that panel was Ruth Patterson but having said that, Alex Maskey has been pro-active too but at the end of the day we are unionists and will vote accordingly.”
In Culmore they insist that as soon as the new Assembly Members bed down, they must make jobs and investment in community facilities their priority.
Sean Casey, a barman at \[a.mcgreevy\]the local watering holeThe Magnet, will be voting for the young mayor of Derry Colum Eastwood as his first preference. He said:
“I think he has done well as mayor of Derry and because he is only 28 he knows the issues affecting young people. He knows what’s going on because he is young himself.”
Project worker for a local care organisation and mother-of-two Geraldine Irwin (42) said:
“There needs to be jobs for young people. I have an 18-year-old myself and I would like to think there will be opportunities there and things will work out economically for the young people coming up. I will be voting the same, the SDLP. I think they will do all right.”
Pharmacy technician and mother-of-three Paula Moore (40) said:
“My big concern is that the children, the elderly, all the different groups have nowhere to meet. There doesn't seem to be anything provided for any age group. There is not even a park for the children to go and play.”