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Selection of Ellen Murray a major step

By Steven Agnew

Published 26/01/2016

Steven Agnew MLA is leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland
Steven Agnew MLA is leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland

The Green Party consistently and repeatedly stands for equality. We fight with our under-represented allies to ensure those with a small voice are heard loud and clear.

As a democratic party, constituency group members select their candidates to represent them in that area. These core principles of social justice and grassroots democracy combined when Ellen Murray was nominated as candidate for West Belfast.

A gay, transgender woman is standing for the Green Party in the Assembly elections; a tremendous step forward for Northern Ireland, which was unthinkable just a few years ago. I am extremely proud of the Green Party's members. Their demonstration of acceptance and inclusion of a small, almost hidden, section of our society speaks volumes.

The reaction to Ellen's announcement that she is standing for election has been overwhelmingly positive. She has made headlines around the world - for all the right reasons.

Of course, there have been some who say it doesn't matter what your gender is; that you shouldn't make a big deal of it, and I hope one day we will get to that point. But the reality is women - and many others from all sections of our society - are not represented in our political structures.

To tackle this the Green Party has been proactive, working from the membership upwards to create conditions in which women, and others, have the confidence to become engaged in politics.

Once you get past the headlines, Ellen's motivation for standing for election is clear: she wants to give a voice to women, young people and the LGBTQ community.

Having spent years working with marginalised young people, better access to trans healthcare is one of her causes.

Another cause, indeed passion, is creating sustainable transport. West Belfast is one of the most disadvantaged areas in Western Europe, and Ellen understands the transport poverty experienced by many and the need for a proper, affordable transport system.

There have been many opportunities wasted by this Assembly to create a more equal, tolerant and inclusive society. Ellen Murray is leading the way to change that.

Steven Agnew MLA is leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland

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