McCann to challenge ‘legacy of neglect’

People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann takes to the mic alongside Foyle's other five MLAs on stage for the official declaration - Martin McGuinness (Sinn Fein),Raymond McCartney (Sinn Fein) Mark H Durkan (SDLP) Colum Eastwood (SDLP), and Gary Middleton (DUP), as counting of votes continues at the Foyle Arena in Derry in the the Foyle and East Derry constituencies in the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections. (Niall Carson/PA Wire).
People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann takes to the mic alongside Foyle's other five MLAs on stage for the official declaration - Martin McGuinness (Sinn Fein),Raymond McCartney (Sinn Fein) Mark H Durkan (SDLP) Colum Eastwood (SDLP), and Gary Middleton (DUP), as counting of votes continues at the Foyle Arena in Derry in the the Foyle and East Derry constituencies in the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections. (Niall Carson/PA Wire).

Newly-elected Foyle Assembly Member Eamonn McCann said he plans to pursue a raft of pressing social, environmental and economic issues once Stormont reopens.

Derry’s new People Before Profit MLA was speaking as he made his way to Stormont for the induction session yesterday.

Mr McCann said many of the issues he plans to pursue through his new role resembled those which informed the evolution of the Civil Rights movement in the late 60s and early 70s.

It is anticipated that the new Assembly will hold its first formal sessions as early as Thursday of this week.

Mr McCann said the socialist perspective will colour the priorities he and his PBP West Belfast colleague Gerry Carroll MLA will be pursuing in government.

He said “There are a lot of issues, some of them are very broad and some of them are Derry issues specifically.

“Priorities will include same sex marriage equality, the reproductive rights of women and anti-austerity- in particular, the sanctioning of benefit recipients, and also the way in which the wealthy get away with massive tax fraud. We believe the Assembly ought not to be facilitating that.”

In terms of Derry, he added, the issues he plans to address include a legacy of neglect, dumping at Mobuoy and the expansion of Magee.

He said: “What was striking doing the campaign and talking to people on the doorsteps was that I found myself with issues that were at least 50 years old, and which to some extent gave rise to the Civil Rights movement of ‘68-’69. Many of these issues are still with us.

“Many of the problems for Derry are distinctive and are as a result of the historical neglect.

“I discovered in the last few weeks the manifesto from the Westminster election of June 1970. I read over it last night and chunks of it could be lifted and added into the manifesto of today.”

Mr McCann said he was delighted to be elected to the Assembly alongside his PBP profit colleague, Mr Carroll.

“It would be very different if there was just one of us going into Stormont because of the inevitable sense of isolation,” he said.

Speaking about recent media interest in whether he will wear the “business attire” required by Speakers at previous Assembly meetings, Mr McCann said he does not intend what he is wearing to become the main factor of his debut.

“There are more substantial matters,” he said.

A spokesman for the NI Assembly said yesterday that the issue of a dress code for the newly re-formed Assembly was expected to be decided upon very soon, but has not been finalised as yet.

Eamonn McCann was elected in the early hours of Saturday as the count for the constituency came to an end, having attained 4,176 first preference votes.

His campaigning team and well wishers erupted in applause at the news, some even breaking out in the Civil Rights anthem ‘We Shall Overcome’.

Mr McCann has been involved in politics for more than 50 years from his student days at Queen’s University and he helped found and shape the Civil Rights movement. He has also been at the fore of the fight for Justice for the Bloody Sunday victims over the decades, and has been to the fore of the anti-war movement, environmental issues and social justice campaigns in the North West.