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Tina McKenzie says she could step back into the political arena after NI21 fiasco

By Liam Clarke

Published 27/04/2015

Tina McKenzie pondering her future at a city cafe at the weekend
Tina McKenzie pondering her future at a city cafe at the weekend
Former NI21 candidate Tina McKenzie

Tina McKenzie thought she was over the politics bug when she dramatically resigned from NI21 on election night last year, but now she isn't ruling out a return.

She believes the business community, the young and families are all crying out for a political voice that isn't "orange or green and predominantly male".

She wants links across the island of Ireland, between Ireland and Britain and internationally.

"The Republic of Ireland is looking at rejoining the Commonwealth. The south's relationship with Great Britain has changed especially since the Queen's visit. All around us things will shift and hopefully that will have a good impact on Northern Ireland," she said.

She believes the Republic should rejoin the Commonwealth and believes it is being considered.

Ireland already has close business and cultural links to the body, which used to be known as the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Although the Queen is formally head of the body, its 53 member states include other republics like South Africa and India.

Ms McKenzie feels the political priority for our generation is to bequeath our children a better future and not get bogged down by past differences.

"I see so much in terms of the unemployed, the barriers they face. I am really passionate that this generation should get Northern Ireland back together and not leave a shambles to our children because we can't agree. I don't know if I will go back into politics or not but I think our politics is going to change. I am hoping so anyway."

She explained: "Debates in other places like Scotland will drive change here now. I don't see a place in Northern Ireland politics for me right now".

Before joining N121 in 2013, the last time she had voted was for the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

"I am part of a growing group who don't have anyone representing them and that needs to change. For instance, polls show large numbers of Catholics are happy to stay within the UK.

"I'm one of them but who are we going to vote for here? The political system just doesn't cover everyone and we see that in the steady fall in the number of voters."

Before she resigned from NI21 Ms McKenzie suffered vicious online attacks, as many female politicians do.

As someone who worked for years as an head-hunter and employment consultant, the mother-of -three believes women face a glass ceiling in employment and says women also get a tougher time in politics.

"They even hacked my Twitter the day before the election and put up all sorts of things.

"It looks tough for women from the outside but let me tell you it is even tougher when you are on the inside.

"You have got to be a tough old cookie to get involved and you can't afford a thin skin if you want to challenge the consensus," she said.

"The women are taken apart in Stormont. People talk about women's dresses and clothes. People were putting up how I looked in a pink dress and you just think 'they wouldn't say it to a bloke'."

Story so far

When it comes to female political leaders, Tina McKenzie was the one who got away and at 41 she feels there could still be time for another go. She sprung to prominence as the chair of NI21, a moderate unionist party, and its European candidate. The party imploded after unproven allegations of misconduct against Basil McCrea, one of its founders. Ms McKenzie and several others resigned on the day of the election.

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