A GP based in Shantallow has announced that she will run as an independent candidate for Stormont, whether the election happens in the coming weeks or as scheduled for next May.
The announcement was made last night at a meeting in the city’s Maldron Hotel on the anniversary of the October 5, 1968 Civil Rights demonstration in Derry which was infamously attacked by the RUC. The meeting was under the banner of ‘October 5: From Civil Rights to Stormont Cuts-What is to be done?’ and was attended by all five Independent members of Derry and Strabane District Council, as well Independent TD Thomas Pringle and Independent Councillor Michael Mac Giolla Easbuig, both from Donegal and Kevin McCorry, former chairman of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ prior to last night’s announcement, Dr McCloskey said that despite initial reluctance to run she has been encouraged by the growth in independent representatives north and south of the border.
“There are a pile of independents now which means you do not have to take a political package. It was Groucho Marx who said that he would not join any club that would have him as a member and that is how I feel about politics. Various political parties have asked me to stand over the years, but there is no way that I would last a week within the confines of these sort of structures,” she said.
“For example, I am very left wing but I am pro-life, a stance associated with the right-wing. None of the labels fit with me, I do not tick any of the boxes. But, I do care passionately about people and I don’t think you can live in this town and not be affected by the political impotency facing people. half this community are taking anti-depressant medication and they have a lack of self-esteem and a lack of hope.
“I am highly concerned about the suicide rate in this city. People are in despair about cuts to their benefits for example. I did a time and motion studyin this surgery last year, just using the clock on my mobile phone. I time what percentage of the day I spent talking to people about benefits and it worked out at something around 30 per cent. That is time I could have spent doing something else, for example speaking about preventative measures in relation to health. Instead I am writing letters for people, helping them fight tribunals and all of that.
I am standing really in order to give a voice to people-Dr Anne McCloskey
“If we have an idea that we need to ‘cherish all the children of the nation equally’ then that is what it should actually mean. I am standing really in order to give a voice to people.
“This is a resilient community full of good, hard working people, but there is nothing they can do. Their situation has become a learned helplessness,” Anne continued.
Dr McCloskey also told the ‘Journal’ that if elected that she is under no illusion that she will be able to make a major difference to people’s lives immediately.
She said: “I have worked in this community long enough to know that people are not getting a fair deal, they are not getting representation and they are not getting the issues that affect their lives dealt with. I am not saying that I can change that but I can express it for them and start hopefully to build a movement outside of the normal political structures. I have no interest in political power, I have no political ambitions and I think that makes me a good candidate. I am not interested in money and I have no ulterior motives.”
The independent candidate said however that she believes that she can use whatever influence she has through her work as a GP and a political activist who has taken part in many campaigns down the years to the betterment of people in Derry. Having helped found organisations such as the mental health facility Cunamh, as well the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum as well as sitting on the board of Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin Dr McCloskey said: “I believe I can get a vote out and show people there is another way, then I am happy to do that.”
The ‘Journal’ asked Dr McCloskey that if elected, would she address Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom at Stormont?
“Look at Articles 2 & 3 of the Irish Constitution that were given away under the Good Friday Agreement. An awful lot of people were left behind by that process. A lot of people were disillusioned by that. I treat a lot of ex-prisoners suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
“I believe that during the Good Friday Agreement there should have been a ‘no’ campaign in the south so at least there was some sort of dissent. How can you take a plebiscite on a nation’s future by dividing it into two and having to separate votes? That is unfair and that is what happened. My brand of republicanism is an analysis, not a dogma. I believe a 32 county republic, organised for the people of Ireland, by the people of Ireland and that includes everyone, no matter where they are from, no matter what language they speak, is the best way forward to try and organise in this country.
“It is going to be a long way away and I do not agree that it should be a 50 per cent plus one of the six county people, that to me puts the whole issue way back. For example, the Scottish situation is interesting. Perhaps if you are going to have a vote then perhaps include England, Scotland and Wales and you might find you get a very different result.
“With the advent of the Good Friday Agreement we now have de facto, two countries, two jurisdictions accepted on paper by people north and south and it is only now that people are waking up to that. I believe that the UK City of Culture was really rubbing our noses in that. This took the emphasis away from Britain and put blame on people here. These divisions are imposed on us and are carefully fostered by the British.”
“The constitutional issue is central and it could rumble on for another century. A lot of young people now do not see the constitutional position as an issue. It is not important to them, but whilst there is no longer blood on the street, there is still conflict.”