“It’s lovely to meet you.” I replied “I love you.” – By Clare Bailey


Team Green were on the doorsteps in South Belfast battling through storm Doris on Wednesday evening and a woman shook my hand and said “it’s lovely to meet you”. When I replied “I love you too” I knew it was time to call it a night.

For many who have not canvassed before, the thought of knocking the door of random strangers and striking up a conversation is the stuff of nightmares. 

However, canvassing is essential and it is something I enjoy. It is only by listening to constituents and having the privilege of discussing with them how various issues can be solved will we ever move on. 

Grassroots democracy is fundamental to the Green Party and I respect the wealth of opinion out there.

Realistically, the majority of votes will be cast on along traditional lines – Nationalist or Unionist come March 2.  

Something is happening out there and it is giving me hope.  

I have spoken to lifelong DUP voters who have been shocked by Arlene Foster’s recent behaviour and her attitude. It is causing them to struggle with the thought of casting a vote for her. Likewise, I have met Sinn Fein and SDLP voters who are dismayed with a lack of progress at Stormont and the endless stalemate.

There is anger, there is disappointment, there is frustration but I think that is to be expected given the reasons why we are being brought back to the ballot box just nine months after the last election. How this will play out on Thursday 2nd March is unpredictable.

The common thread is that we cannot have business as usual. Things have fundamentally shifted and it has become increasingly clear that the traditional parties cannot deliver.

Non-parties with new thinking are needed at Stormont, but the only way we will see a shift in the status quo is if citizens cast their vote.  

My canvass team and I are regularly asked how our PR voting system can be used to best effect. More than ever before, there is an understanding that your Number One vote in a multi seat STV election does not necessarily have to go to your favourite. This is not the X Factor. 

People are paying attention to how the transfer system works and how to use it to effect maximum beneficial outcomes they want to see.

This understanding includes the 46% who did not vote back in May; they need to have confidence that they will make a difference when they vote. 

There are many issues arising at the doors, but a common theme is the perception of corruption in our politics, with parties needing to be transparent and accountable. 

This means following the lead given by the Green Party which voluntarily publishes all donations over £500. We don’t need to wait for legislation to do that. 

The Green Party supports devolution over direct rule, as do the vast majority of people. The devolved institutions are far from perfect but the traditional parties have wasted opportunities to deliver within the system. The collapse of the Executive does not serve the economic, political or social interests of Northern Ireland. They have left us with no budget, no plan.

After this election, the Green Party would like to see a constitutional convention established to discuss the issues that have hampered progress to date. 

What has been glaringly evident over recent years and now, at the doors again, is that people are so far ahead of the politics holding them back. I do not see how the traditional parties can address the legacy of our past – this is one area where people hold the solutions. 

When we go into a period of negotiation as predicted after this election we cannot sit back and allow a two-party negotiation. We cannot let them run to talks with London and Dublin, for neither can solve our problems. The people of Northern Ireland – you and I – have the ideas. We have both hopes and answers. We need a place at the table.

Unlike the beginning of this piece I am not suggesting that we all must profess our love for each other. 

People will always have their differences, which should be respected. If we through discussion and working together, could agree some political compromise and expansion, who knows where it might lead.  

As an MLA for South Belfast, I have worked for my constituents. It will be my privilege to do so again.  

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