Businessman hoping to become an independent MLA in West Belfast reveals groundbreaking manifesto
A west Belfast businessman standing in the upcoming Assembly election has pledged to give up part of his salary to form a cross-community group to decide how to spend it in the area.
Tony Mallon, who works in the health and safety sector, also has groundbreaking ideas on his manifesto, such as believing that all parades should be allowed as they are an expression of freedom of speech.
He told the Belfast Telegraph that he would donate £11,000 — more than a fifth — of his annual £51,000 wage if he is elected to Stormont as a cross-community independent candidate.
Mr Mallon (38) is set to stand for the West Belfast constituency, which at present has four Sinn Fein MLAs as well as People Before Profit’s Gerry Carroll.
He said: “It’s a completely different concept. A key part of what I’m standing for is that I’m looking to donate part of my salary to a new local residents’ trust made up of all political perspectives.
“I will not have a say on how any of the money is spent as I want to create a new type of democracy where the majority of money, power and decisions are made by locals.
“There would be public meetings held face to face and on Zoom where all residents can see how the money is being spent, to get updated and to ask their local politicians the hard questions, with full accessibility and openness.
“These residents’ trusts will be cross-community and the money will be getting spent across the community of West Belfast, decided by the community for the community and the only input I’ll have is just donating money into it and I will be available once a month to be held to account.
“You’ve got Sinn Fein and People Before Profit who talk about taking an industrial wage, but the rest of the money gets pumped back into their party. Sinn Fein are Ireland’s richest party and they are supposed to be socialists.”
Mr Mallon is a single dad with a background in health and safety and construction who started his own company last year, and is passionate about education having gone back to it part-time since leaving school and has amassed 27 years of studies.
He believes “the typical nationalist parties have abandoned their people in west Belfast” and claimed that “for the first time ever nationalists are considering voting for the DUP to defend their rights”.
He explained: “I think Sinn Fein and the SDLP have lost a lot of support lately on issues such as abortion.
“Sinn Fein’s support actually swelled after the Good Friday Agreement but they were never the number one nationalist party until they gave up their arms and violence.
“So the new generation now, they’ve only seen the political talk that Sinn Fein like to spin out on equality and all the good soundbites. But basically what I am seeing in West Belfast is that Sinn Fein have morphed into the SDLP, to me the two parties are the exact same and there is no difference.”
Mr Mallon has radical suggestions to remedy controversial issues such as parades, including a proposal that republicans and nationalists should embrace Orange marches and vice versa.
He said: “I’m a massive believer in freedom of speech and expression and would work tirelessly with the Parades Commission. I see marches as a freedom of speech argument.
“I would love to see republicans marching with Orange Order marches and Orange Order members marching with republicans. I believe as we are heading towards a shared Ireland we need peacemakers, otherwise the civil unrest will be horrendous. Freedom of speech is paramount to anything that I stand for. I come from a nationalist background, I’m an atheist, I’ve always been an atheist, so I don’t actually care what anybody is, it doesn’t make a head or tail of difference to anything, so that’s where I stand on religion.
“So freedom of speech is paramount to everything that I stand for and in this country it’s respecting other people’s nationality.
“We’ve seen the Parades Commission down the years place bans on Orange Order marches.
“Now I don’t celebrate the Orange Order or support, necessarily, everything the Orange Order does, but I will defend their right to celebrate their tradition and I can see no other political party in Northern Ireland that will actually defend other people’s opinions, they will only defend equality when it is their equality. They will not defend other people’s idea of equality and that is fundamentally wrong.
“If we are to head for a peaceful and shared island, something needs to change. We need to think outside the box. We need pacemakers within Northern Ireland who will not be afraid to challenge the status quo and how things are done.
“Because I would love to see the day where nationalists could support an Orange Order march with a token gesture band, that the two sides of the community could come together and respect each other’s cultures. You don’t have to agree with them, but I will respect them.”
Mr Mallon said that while he is in favour of a shared Ireland, if there was a border poll tomorrow he would vote against it as he believes the “British population require safeguards to protect their identity”.
He stated: “What should care to everybody the most is that everybody is safe, everybody is prosperous and everybody has good education, a good health system and everybody can live in peace.
“If a shared island means that we end up with the Troubles back again, it’s not worth it. And the reason you could get the Troubles back again would be because the British community have not felt that they are a part of this shared island.
“You’ve seen since the Good Friday Agreement that they’ve had to give a lot more than what the nationalist side have had to give, so they feel disenfranchised. Protestants, and especially Protestant men, have a low educational attainment rate — so why aren’t Sinn Fein, the SDLP and PBP shouting from the roof tops about ending discrimination and equality whenever it is now the Protestant community that are the ones that are suffering from it?”
Mr Mallon is not an anti-vaxxer but he does believe there is “discrimination through the vaccine passports” and has regularly campaigned against them, including addressing a rally at City Hall.
He added: “The nationalist community especially are up in arms, because they are now being discriminated again, they believe, and it seems to be that some members of the DUP are the only ones who are fighting against it,” he added.
“I’m totally open-minded about vaccines but having to show papers to get into premises is a step too far. That’s not about protecting people’s health, that is a totalitarian regime.”