My daughter, Caitlin, is the same age as the Good Friday Agreement and will be one of the many born in 1998 who will get the chance to vote for the first time in this week’s Local Assembly Elections. So she asked who she should vote for. My first advice was not to vote like your parents. We have too many generations of that in N. Ireland. Think for yourself I told her.
We were on our way home from school and I started pointing out the posters on the lamp posts.
- Well you know Máirtín?
- Oh yes. He’s your friend. His brother comes to Fitzroy.
- And that’s Claire. She was at our St Patrick’s Day Festival.
- Oh yeh. With her wee children.
- Now that is Duncan. He’s a Manse kid like you.
- Over there. That is Emma. She was at that Refugees Welcome event Mum and I were at.
- Oh down on LORAG.
It was fascinating for me. I reflected on how privileged I am to knowing personally many of our potential MLAs.
I must say that though there are times when I get frustrated with what our politicians do at Stormont in their Party political bickering I have come to respect the individual MLAs. All the MLAs that I have the privilege of working with or drinking coffee with are people who want to make N. Ireland a better place. I feel that in my South Belfast constituency I have an array of people to vote for who will do a great job for our area and for the people of N. Ireland.
That is why I am disappointed when the constitutional card is played in elections. The border is not an issue at this stage in our country’s politics. It is time to move on from that old divisiveness and concentrate our politics on health, education, employment and care of the marginalised.
When it comes to deciding who to vote for on Thursday, and I change my PR order on an hourly basis, I will be looking at who on my list of choices will best look after the entire population of our area and then the country. I did say “entire population” because I will not be voting for who will be best for me. That is not the Jesus way; the common good over our own selfishness.
For me there are a few Biblical passages that will filter the leaflets and manifestos. Jesus words at the outset of his ministry is a crucial piece:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Who is going to fulfil the Old Testament prophetic imagining that Jesus read here?
Luke 6 is also a vital text in our N. Ireland scenario. As we move away from the violent trauma of our past which candidate will be most likely to take Jesus call to love former enemies seriously.
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
The looking after the marginalised, which would include refugees and the homeless, and the desire for peacemaking and deep reconciliation are my big asks. Those are the Biblical dreams I will be considering. I am always aware too that it is sometimes those who don’t pray or read the Scriptures or worship regularly who hold similar views of a different society as Jesus. I don’t vote for the one who talks about Jesus so much as the one who campaigns for Jesus issues.
One last thing. I am never a fan of a politician who has to belittle other politicians in their campaigning. Tell us about yourself and I will work out what I think of the rest!
So, all the best to those who are standing for election. Fair play to you for having the courage and commitment to seek office. I pray for your stamina as you keep going to door to door until Thursday.
I look forward to being able to like and re-tweet your Tweets once Thursday is over. I have not wanted to be seen favouring any of you above the other.
Only one of you can get my first preference but I will be keen to work with you all, whoever gets elected, for the common good of all.