Belfast Telegraph

Let us vote only for people who try to make this a better place

By Alf McCreary

Next week we are being asked to vote in the Assembly election, and yet one wonders what change the elected representatives will bring, if any, and if their motives are party first, and people second.

This week I addressed a meeting of Christian Aid supporters in the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, and a northern colleague said that when she mentioned the topic of climate change to a unionist candidate in greater Belfast, he hardly knew what to say.

Modern topics such as global warming do not top the list here, where every election is fought on orange and green issues, apart from the Green Party which is 'green' in a different sense.

The world is changing rapidly, and in some areas dangerously so, but our politics are still rooted in 1690 and 1916.

South of the border they seem to have made some progress, though politics in Ireland harks back tediously to Irish Civil War issues. When will we in Ireland, north and south, have the courage to move on?

Despite the inevitable weariness felt by the electorate at many of the same old faces, and all of the same old issues, it would be wrong to write off all politicians as cynical party hacks.

There are some who enter politics to serve the community, but who may find sooner or later that they must toe the party line.

Independents have more influence than in the past, but they still need to endure prolonged horse-trading if they are to make headway.

One fascinating dimension to Northern Ireland politics is the fact that the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have talked openly about their religious faith, in a recent newspaper article.

It is hard to think of another region of the UK or indeed Europe where two of the top politicians would talk about their faith in quite the same way.

Only last week the First Minister Arlene Foster wrote an article for this newspaper in which she paid tribute to the people of faith who have made our world a better place.

Such a view will grate with those who exhibit a knee-jerk reaction every time the Churches are mentioned, and their views are so predictable that they lack credibility.

Its about time that some people in authority paid tribute to the work of the Churches in the manner of First Minister Foster, who noted: "Faith in God is sneered at by some, and belief held up as foolishness.

"Despite this we should all - believers or not - be grateful to our Churches and faith groups. They enrich our community and make Northern Ireland a better place."

How right she is. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could say the same about our political class as a whole?

So next week when you vote, as I hope you will, think about the person behind the face on the poster. Ask yourself: who on this list is just another party hack, or who is the person who might help to make Northern Ireland a better place for all of us, irrespective of background?

It's a question well worth asking before you make your choice. However, I do not agree with the Catholic Church urging people not to vote for pro-abortion candidates. People should be allowed to make up their own minds on this complex issue, without being told how to vote.

Belfast Telegraph


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