Belfast Telegraph

Greens a force for the future

By Steven Agnew

If a week is a long time in politics, it's no surprise my five years as leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland feels like a lifetime.

In the past five years the party's membership has trebled and continues to rise. Our share of the vote has doubled between Westminster elections and we had our best-ever council election. It was standing room only at the Green Party conference last Saturday.

People have become tired of the wasteful gridlock of politics as usual and the Green Party offers an opportunity for change. But it's not just about numbers.

The party has also achieved tangible successes. Through the Children's Services Co-operation Act, which I introduced, we have made things better for children today and society tomorrow.

We have exposed the systemic failure of our planning system that sees unauthorised sand-dredging in Lough Neagh, illegal dumps such as Mobuoy flourishing and oil drilling in Woodburn.

We have led the way on equal marriage. We stood up to the injustices of welfare reform, resulting in a better, although not good enough, deal. Green Party representatives have been working in local communities to bring about positive change. Councillor Ross Brown secured Belfast City Council's opposition to the Woodburn oil drilling, support for an energy transition strategy and an animal cruelty register.

Our Green councillors in Ards and North Down brought about a ban of circuses using wild animals on council property. They have supported community workers speaking out against paramilitary intimidation and have been working towards giving the public a say in how money is spent.

Equality and social justice, inextricably linked with environmental sustainability, are the foundations of the Green Party. This becomes apparent when you look at our 18 candidates for the Assembly elections.

By working with and empowering members, we have achieved a 50/50 gender balance. We are standing LGBT candidates, including the first transgender candidate in Northern Ireland. We are standing young - and not so young - candidates. I am very proud of the Green Party.

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

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