90-mile Stormont trek protester accuses DUP and Sinn Fein of 'stealing future'
A dance teacher from Co Fermanagh expressed disappointment that only a handful of MLAs turned out to support his call for politicians to move Northern Ireland forward.
Dylan Quinn (44) received a low-key greeting when he arrived at Stormont yesterday afternoon following a 90-mile trek from his home in Enniskillen.
"I understand that some have constituency work, but the response has been disappointing. By not engaging they have failed to take the opportunity to change the conversation," he said.
In a passionate plea outside Parliament Buildings, the father-of-four accused the DUP and Sinn Fein of robbing an entire generation.
"This walk is simply about a father trying to stick up for his children and I have one message: 'You are stealing my children's future and that's not fair'," he said.
"The two biggest parties need to look into their hearts... they have scuppered the progress that has been made and history will look upon them very poorly."
The founder of the We Deserve Better campaign the other parties to speak out about communities which are increasingly feeling abandoned. However, he conceded little can be done without the support of the 'big two', for whom he had this message: "You're not listening to people, you're not listening to fear, you're not changing our future."
He was warmly greeted in Belfast by his wife Hannah (49), sons Sunee (12) and Luca (16) and daughters Laila (5) and Taeya (14). "Obviously, we are very proud and the kids are acutely aware he has done it for them," said Hannah.
"But this is about showing that if you keep moving forward with determination and grit, you will get somewhere."
She also expressed disappointment that the vast majority of our 90 MLAs who were invited to walk one mile with her husband snubbed the invitation.
"To me, it raises questions," she added.
Ulster Unionists Doug Beattie and Robbie Butler, Alliance's Paula Bradshaw and the DUP's Jonathan Buckley were among the few MLAs who joined Mr Quinn on his political pilgrimage.
Mr Buckley and DUP colleague Pam Cameron, along with four Alliance MLAs, were among the handful of elected representatives to greet Mr Quinn at Stormont.
Mrs Bradshaw, who was also there to congratulate him at the finish line, questioned why so many of her Assembly colleagues "chose" to shun Mr Quinn's campaign.
"I saw many of them in there today and only they can account for why they aren't out here," she said.
Fellow Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said he hopes Mr Quinn's accomplishment will "prick the conscience" of the electorate next time they go the ballot box as he too expressed disappointment at the level of support. "There are two big power blocs in Stormont and they must explain why they were not on this march," he said.
And Strangford MLA Kellie Armstrong, who is part of the Alliance talks team hoping to revive power-sharing, hopes politicians will imitate Mr Quinn by travelling the distance still left to go.
"But it's up to those parties who aren't here to make that leap," she added.
Ms Armstrong warned that Northern Ireland is falling backwards as she called on Secretary of State Karen Bradley to provide the impetus to move forward by reconvening talks and establishing an independent facilitator.
East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said Mr Quinn's concerns were shared by the majority of people here as he warned that school leaders are at their "wits' end" over financial concerns.
Last night Sinn Fein MLA Sean Lynch said Mr Quinn was invited to meet him and his colleague Caoimhe Archibald, who were in Stormont working yesterday afternoon.
The DUP said it found it "difficult to understand" the criticism, as a number of its MLAs supported Mr Quinn.