Belfast Telegraph

Paul leads the charm offensive

By Oliver McGuckin

IF CHARM, wit and style were translated into votes, then Democratic Left

candidate Paul Gupta would be already half-way to the forum.

candidate Paul Gupta would be already half-way to the forum.

Smartly dressed in a rust-coloured jacket, collar and tie and green corduroy trousers, he cut a dash as he canvassed passers-by in Glengormley on the last day of the hustings.

Paul, who is a candidate in the South Antrim constituency, had senior party colleague Seamus Lynch alongside him for moral support.

But the 34-year-old full-time government and law student at the University of Ulster knows he will need more than that to challenge the established Unionist, SDLP and Alliance parties.

Formerly a member of the SDLP, he quit last year after an alleged internal dispute over his bid to build links with loyalist representatives in the Newtownabbey area.

Of Indian origin, he has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland.

Asked how he had been received by the public during electioneering, he said people had been very supportive of his views.

"Bigotry is the same no matter where it comes from _ race, religion or whatever.

"We are a diverse society, but we should be celebrating that instead of excluding certain facets and groups because of their religion or the colour of their skin.

"My involvement in politics has copper- fastened my belief that black people must be seen and heard in all sectors of society."

Paul left his sick bed to put his message across yesterday.

"I was in a car accident at the weekend and injured my back and neck.

"On top of that I have had four soakings this week already," he said.

Breaking away from our conversation to hand out his election pamphlets, he got a polite response, with virtually no-one refusing to accept a leaflet.

Despite media reports of apathy, Paul was upbeat.

"We are a young party which believes in promoting social and economic issues over constitutional matters.

"We will be a thorn in the side of nationalism and unionist for a long time to come, regardless of what happens in this election," he said

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