As far as the canvass goes things are looking good!
People are understandably concerned about economic issues, in particular jobs and investment in their communities. A massive issue being raised with me is about social housing and the immediate and real need for more social homes to be built in order to prevent people languishing on waiting lists. People rightly want to stay in the communities in which they were born and reared; in turn they want to bring their own families up in these same, good communities.
Keeping families and people together lends heavily to the important issue of community cohesion and all of the benefits that flow from that. With massive developments taking place on our doorstep citizens in the east of the city want to see the tangable benefits of these future developments. Housing is central to this, but so too is economic and business stimulation, job creating and training opportunities. leisure and sporting facilities and everything that should and must be enshrined in these large scale developments, both Titanic Quarter and Sirocco Quays.
Something raised with me regularly throughout this campaign is the issue of community safety. Concerns about anti-social behaviour are growing all the time; communities can only do so much to prevent that tide from growing, the PSNI have to do more to prevent people from being frightened in their own homes. The idea of our elderly residents being afraid to walk the streets of areas they have spent their entire lives in is unacceptable. I have mentioned the recent, unacceptable behaviour of the PSNI in the Short Strand and intend blogging about it more comprehensively in the time ahead, but for the immediate time being the issues of concern aren’t going to go away. I am glad that I can say Sinn Féin have so far played our role, with others, in bringing the necessary stakeholders and those with specific responsibility in relation to dealing with issues of crime and antisocial behaviour around the table, we must continue to ensure that they deliver on their responsibilities and work to create a safer east Belfast for all.
Last week Sinn Féin held our annual Belfast town hall meeting, this was one of ten held across the Six Counties. What struck me from previous town hall meetings was the growing number of people attending who weren’t Sinn Féin activists. Representaives of the Party leadership, including Gerry Adams, Gerry Kelly, Alex Maskey and Bairbre de Brún MEP. Issues on the night ranged from disability rights, to the parading issue, from social and community investment to the painful subject of suicide. People wanted to know what Sinn Féin were doing in the Executive and more importantly what more we could deliver for people post May 6th.
We’ve been out in force in north Belfast, Gerry Kelly has a very real chance of taking the seat from DUP and Orange Order stalwart Nigel Dodds, who thus far has delivered little for the constituency except attempting to cement sectarian division. Gerry K is the man who can do it, I’m delighted to have been able to join the canvass in support of him and look forward to a few more between now and the election. The feedback on the day was certainly reflective of the desire people have for change and the faith the have in Gerry as the one to deliver it!
In the meantime we have been doing the usual, canvassing, leafleting and getting the posters up!
In the run up to May the 6th we are being contacted by a growing number of people from outside of our core support areas, people wishing us well in the time ahead and contacting out constituency service in their droves. This is a good thing and not least down to the work by Sinn Féin in east Belfast to branch out and engage beyond our traditional areas. Speaking of that though, friends and neighbours in the Short Strand have been giving our canvass team great feedback; they know the party who is on the ground, delivering for them. That party is, and always has been Sinn Féin.
Alex has removed his candidacy in south Belfast; I have no doubt this was a difficult decision for him, Alex is a political leader unequalled in his constituency but given that fact he will acknowledge the reasons this move had to be done, to maximise and consolidate nationalist/republican representation throughout the north. I have no doubt many in south Belfast will be annoyed that no republican is standing in the constituency but be assured that Alex and the south & east Belfast SF team are going nowhere. Our track record in the south of the city speaks for itself and under Alex’s leadership will continue to work on behalf of the people, very much looking forward to the Assembly and Council elections next year. Alex comments on the SF initiative here
Again, sorry this blog post is brief and the postings are becoming fewer but yas know the craic!!!
PS I'm writing this during a quick break while working from our office on Bothar na bhFáll before heading back east for another canvass this evening!
PPS My aunt and uncle thankfully got home from Rome safely during the volanic ash disruption but I'd say like most residents in east Béal Feirste, the few days peace and quiet didn't go un-noticed!