The South Down branch of the Alliance Party joined NI Assembly candidate candidate Councillor Patrick Brown as he handed in his nomination papers for the Assembly election last Friday in Banbridge. Alliance have strongly set out their stall on equality issues.
Councillor Brown said that Alliance was growing significantly in South Down and added: “Over the past two years since Alliance elected two councilors to Newry Mourne and Down District council in 2014 and tripled our Westminster result last May, our membership has almost doubled. People of all ages and backgrounds are now joining Alliance because they see it as a genuine progressive alternative in South Down. They see it also as a solution to the green and orange politics of the past.
“This is the first time in a generation that Alliance has a real chance of winning a seat in South Down. Given the number of candidates running and the split Unionist vote, if each person that voted for Alliance last May went out and found one more person to vote for us this time around, we will win a seat.”
Cllr Brown’s election agent, Peter Surginor, drew particular attention to his party’s chance of winning a seat from his encounter with the DUP’s former health minster Jim Wells. Following last year’s Westminster election hustings in Downpatrick, Mr Well’s made comments in response to a question about same-sex marriage which led to a storm in the media that eventually resulted in him resigning as Heath Minister, one of Northern Ireland’s top political jobs.
“Peter Surginor was the man who asked Jim Wells that fateful question, and challenged Mr. Wells’ record on equality,” Patrick Brown added: “On too many occasions Northern Irish political leaders, particularly the DUP, have failed to show leadership and have abused methods such as Petition of Concern to undemocratically block equal marriage and other progressive legislation in the Assembly.
“Jim Wells’ comments last year were reflective of the negative views of the DUP in relation to the LGBT community. Too many LGBT people feel discriminated against and unequal in the eyes of the state due to Northern Ireland’s backward laws on equal marriage and gay blood donations, for example.
“In this NI Assembly election we need politicians who will stand up for minority rights. Myself and the Alliance party have shown leadership on this issue in recent years and I believe they are the only non-sectarian, progressive party that can take Northern Ireland forward at this election.
“Therefore I would urge the electorate in South Down who believe in equality for all to vote ‘Brown for South Down’ and support Alliance in the election on 5 May. With your support, we can vote the politics of the past out of Stormont.