Aontú was born of principle - it’ll be my watchword if I’m elected

This election has been the most raw in many years – far too many nights I’ve come home from a canvass angry.

I’ve been angry because I have visited the cold homes of pensioners wrapped in blankets and single parents going hungry to feed their little ones.

I’m angry because political choices got us here, and that has to change.

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This is my first Assembly election, and I’ve been humbled to have people talk to me about their hopes and fears knowing that we didn’t exist the last time they cast a ballot for their MLAs.

Aontú was born of principle and that’ll be the backbone of my time at Stormont if I’m given the honour to serve. The principle that it’s better to do good than look good, to fight and to manoeuvre in whatever way is possible to deliver. We’ve lost 800 hospital beds, we’ve lost the £20 Universal Credit uplift, and we’ve lost two years of our lives, but we have so much to gain. What I offer is a mix of experience and energy. I spent years as an advisor in Stormont and can hit the ground running on day one. I know its machinations and its limitations, but I also know that with dogged determination that place can make a change in your life.

I’ve worked in charities, in membership organisations and in the private sector, building relationships and getting things done. I don’t do silos, if I have to knock a door others won’t to get something for Derry, I will, because it’s not about me. My family are from the Brandywell, and I spent my formative years in Creggan – solid working class communities. Those communities, as well as many others, have suffered from Stormont dysfunction. Promises were made and not kept and politicians only felt the need to venture out at election time.

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That has to change. If people don’t feel valued or feel left behind, then politics and politicians lose the run of themselves – and that’s what’s happened in Stormont. I’ve tried to demonstrate through my work at Council how I do things. When we needed to call a mental health emergency, I did it. When we needed support for a detox centre, I helped manifest it – and when people sat at home without the means to heat themselves, I didn’t wait for a government scheme, I put my hand in my pocket and bought fuel for people which lasted all of three days. I don’t need to tell you that it’s time for change – you see it at your dinner table and outside your front door, but I do want to ask for your vote. I want to serve, to repay all the things Derry has given me, and to push every boundary and knock every door to fulfil the ambitions for the city that those after me will be proud of.