Monday, 2 May 2016

Open Letter to First Minister, Arlene Foster

Dear Ms Foster

Thank you for your recent letter asking for my vote in the Stormont Assembly elections on Thursday 5 May.

I am very happy to vote for your party providing that I can get from you some clarification on your key policies.

Regarding Corporation Tax, why is it important to reduce the rate? This cut will considerably reduce the amount of money brought into the public purse and therefore restrict spending further, in already austere times. You appear to be taking a gamble that the cut in this tax rate will attract more businesses to Northern Ireland; what evidence do you have that this will work? And why do you think it is important to offer a tax cut to big business when welfare cuts are being imposed on the poorest people in our society? Finally, do you not think it is right and fair for big businesses to pay their fair share of taxation to the public finances? Why should tax rates for big business be lower than the level of personal income tax, for example?

Can you explain why your party supports archaic policies designed to prevent women having pregnancy terminations, particularly in the cases of rape, incest and fatal fetal abnormalities? Is this not another example of Northern Ireland being behind the times, being not only the one remaining part of the United Kingdom with such antiquated laws, but also being among a very small minority of so-called developed countries in the world with such draconian restrictions on a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body?

Could you please explain why your party has opposed equal marriage in our society for so long and continues to do so? Do you think it was appropriate to use a Petition of Concern last year to block legislation on this issue when the majority of members of the assembly were in favour? Do you really think this is the kind of issue the Petition of Concern was introduced to address? If the issue comes before the Assembly again, would you allow your party’s MLAs a free vote?

Can you explain why there remains a ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood? You will be aware that this ban has been described by a judge as “irrational”. You will also know that there is no scientific evidence supporting such a ban.

Can you reassure me that you will, unlike your predecessor Peter Robinson, take appropriate measures and sanctions, against senior members of your party who express homophobic views?

Do you think it is acceptable for the LGBT community to be discriminated against in these ways? Would you be happy if such discrimination were routinely handed out to women, or left-handed people, for example?

On issues of the environment, can you explain your party’s position on climate change? I have heard senior members of your party deny its existence, contrary to all scientific evidence. Can you explain why so little appears to have been done by your government to tackle this issue, which has been described as the most serious issue facing humanity? Will you, for example, be renewing a commitment to the Green New Deal, which would retrofit our aging housing stock with 21st century insulation? This would reduce Northern Ireland’s overall CO2 output, would provide work for thousands of people in the construction industry and would, most importantly, give many of our people living in fuel poverty a decent chance to reduce their fuel bills. Why is it that in Northern Ireland more people per capita die of winter cold than in Finland?

Can you explain your party’s continued support of the fracking industry, in the face of public opposition and the possibility of water contamination? Can you be sure that drilling only 380 metres from Woodburn Reservoir cannot contaminate the water within that reservoir? Were appropriate groundwater modelling studies undertaken to check this possibility prior to drilling commencing?
Can you explain why your party is in favour of leaving the European Union? Do you think it will free the UK – and Northern Ireland in particular – from environmental legislation that is lacking on a national level? Or do you think that it will help big businesses by removing some of the rights of our workers?

Finally, could you please clarify your position on financial donations to political parties? Do you know when the DUP will start publishing a list of all its donors? Do you not think it is time Northern Ireland came into line with the rest of the United Kingdom and made it mandatory for political parties to publish such a list? Or are there any political donations the DUP would not want the rest of the world to know about? You will be aware that there have been hints of improper financial dealings surrounding your predecessor, particularly with regard to property deals. Do you not think that an atmosphere of greater transparency would be in the interest of democracy in general?

In your letter you referred again and again to the possibility of Martin McGuinness becoming First Minister, in an attempt, I assume, to frighten me. However, unless I receive from you satisfactory clarification on the points I have raised, I find the prospect of your party returning to power, and having you as First Minister, equally, if not more frightening.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Luke Robinson
Lagan Valley Green Party

Saturday, 5 September 2015

LVGP gets its own Guerillas!

Did you spot our volunteers picking litter at the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival? Or along the Lagan Towpath?

Lagan Valley Green Party - cleaning up
They are part of a new scheme by the Lagan Valley Green Party. Our members wanted to do something to make our community better, and decided on litter picking and street cleaning as the response from the council has been lacklustre in recent times.

Not all the rubbish was recyclable, but at least it was collected on the day and put in its proper place - the bin.

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council rubbish collection has been hit or miss in certain areas.

So, with that, the group supplied the basic equipment to turn each Greenie into an autonomous Litter Picking Unit - or a Guerilla Picker! Who knows where they'll be next?

They are quite friendly so do have a chat if you see one of us out and about in our yellow Hi-vis jacket. We'll be happy to give you more info on our work, and even might pick litter some place you think needs it.

This isn't a one off or a photo opportunity. We are here to stay and help clean up the grot!

Want to help? Email jonathan @ laganvalleygreens .com (remove spaces) and let us know.

Could this be the first time the volunteers associated with a political party have made life better in NI?

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Greens commend Cllr McCarthy for taking on criminal law reform

We were surprised at the bravery of Cllr Jonny McCarthy in taking on such a controversial topic. He is proving himself to be a great representative for the people of Lisburn who want positive change – and sadly becoming a man alone because of it.

We believe Johnny is a good example of a properly moral politician – taking on issues like this that are usually avoided by elected politicians who care more about career prospects than doing what is right. His views that laws on cannabis consumption need modernized are echoed by many organizations, such as Transform, and other charities. However, this doesn’t mean we think no harm can come from the usage of cannabis. Like the usage of all drugs, including alcohol and prescribed antidepressants, there are dark sides. Some may become addicted or suffer injury as a result of intoxication. However there are some things that new thinking can do something about, rather than propping up a system that clearly doesn’t work to eliminate drug usage from our society. Things like regulated legalization work by taking cannabis out of the black market and the hands of criminal gangs. We could further receive tax revenue from the legal - but controlled – sale, which would go some way to paying for the damage drug consumption does to our society.  Users who require medical help and are sick rather than criminals– and if threat of prosecution was removed, they would find this help easier to obtain. Sending them to jail is a waste of resources and ineffective, and runs the risk of committing them to further criminality due to having a conviction that would put prospective employers well off them.
Currently none of these things happen. These measures we have outlined are realistic, borne out by good practice in other countries and through research, do not glamourize or promote recreational drug use and indeed take something back to lessen the heavy cost our society pays. So well done to Johnny McCarthy for shining a light in place where rhetoric, bias and political laziness have ruled the day. Keep up the good work Johnny. To find out more about common sense and innovative green approaches to thorny issues like this, please check

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Lagan Valley Greens - who are we?

We are the local group of the Green Party of Northern Ireland (GPNI).

The Green Party stands for:

  • non-violence
  • grassroots democracy
  • a sustainable and fair future for us all. 

We want the whole of Lagan Valley to be as

  •  clean 
  • beautiful 
  • successful
  •  vibrant
  •  and open to the outside world as it can be. 

If you are interested in progressive politics then you are very welcome to join us as we meet Last Friday of the Month in Azora Healthfoods and cafe located in Hillsborough town centre.

Please check our facebook google plus and twitter for up to date info on meetings.

Some of the things we care about include:

  • Sensible usage of Green Space. So we can grow and relax in the beauty of our natural spaces rather than seethe in endless traffic jams! 
  •  LGBT inclusion and combating prejudice. Ensuring all our residents - friends and relatives - are taking the part they deserve in our local life. Life is better together. 
  • The social economy. Success through addressing peoples needs rather than just relying on fly by night businesses or letting the town centre rot. 
  • Cycling and sustainable transport. For health and low congestion.
  • Non-sectarianism and addressing racism. To ensure Lagan Valley leads the way in happiness and peacefulness.
  • A healthy local economy with proper civic planning. So we all benefit from the successes of local business. 
As progressives there are many things which we care about, We are open to any new and interesting ways of addressing our needs in Lagan Valley. 

Come along and see what it is all about!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Ordinary People Love Bus Lanes

English: Bus Lane on Bath Road in Bristol
Bus lanes are not to blame for congestion.
We reacted with some disbelief at Lisburn's UKIP man wanting rid of bus lanes, blaming them for congestion.

We really shouldn't be surprised - this isn't UKIP’s only silly idea after all.

Anyone who stands at a roadside during rush hour will see with their own eyes it is single occupant cars that cause congestion.

If 1 out of every 2 of these people shared a lift the problem would half overnight.

Northern Ireland is the home of the UK's most congested city, Belfast. Not only is a crawling commute home annoying, burning all that petrol makes the air dirty and more people sick because of it.

Even the smell of the air changes.

Widening roads or adding lanes isn't even a possibility let alone a solution - and it would be very expensive.

Bus lanes allow buses, cycles and motorcycles to whiz easily past as well as being less harsh on our environment. Cars are comfy but too expensive to maintain and feed with petrol for many hard-working people, and there are cheaper and better ways of getting home.

UKIP are plain daft to say otherwise when the evidence is so clear.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Could Paul Givan’s “conscience clause” be used against Christians?

Paul Givan's "Conscience Clause" -
the first "opt in" law in history?
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Former double-jobbing MLA Paul Givan, now chairperson of the Stormont Justice Committee (answerable to minister David Ford), is submitting a clause which would allow exemption from equality legislation on the grounds of “conscience”.

Taking the recent decision against Ashers bakery as his starting point, Mr Givan is keen for us to see this as clearing up a “grey area” that disadvantaged the Christian owner of Ashers.

Regarding this case, although the decision went against the bakery, it would be hard to see exactly what he means, as the bakery hardly lost out despite a decision against it, with the DUP making a big play of flooding their conference with Ashers brand baked goods and countless messages of support.

However, has the ambitious Givan really thought this through?

Firstly, it would create a loophole intentionally, and perhaps create the first ever “opt in” law in modern legal history. Think for example if a loophole was made in law relating to speeding for the owners of powerful cars. Hardly a good idea, is it? It’s basically a scrapping of the whole law. And what about that law?

Originally designed to stop innocent members of the public being discriminated against due to belonging, or being assumed to belong to, a particular group in society. It could be used against the very group Givan claims he is trying to protect.

Think about this one: “No, sorry sir, I refuse to bake you a confirmation cake as this is an (opposing ideology) bakery, and Mr Givan’s law gives me that right”.

Cake baking may not be that serious an affair, but what Givan isn’t telling you is that this would cover ALL aspects of life. It would allow people who do not agree with you, your beliefs or your identity to legally disadvantage you on that basis alone.

The sad fact is that this case is very much a product of Givan’s – and his party’s – own making. By refusing to let churches and religious groups that wished to do so hold marriage ceremonies for same sex couples (such as the non-subscribing Presbyterian Church All Souls in Belfast), Givan has helped create this quagmire. In reality this would have PROTECTED churches’ rights to not hold same sex marriages if it was against their wishes, the perfect balance of rights in that situation, satisfying both camps.

But see this clumsy amendment for what it really is: an attempt to bolster the DUP’s focus group created image as “strong” in the run-up to Westminster elections, which they are worried about due to high profile in-party squabbles and their fumbling of many key issues, welfare reform being a prominent one.

Don’t become a notch on Paul Givan’s career’s bedpost. See through his ill thought out exemption clause and write directly to him letting him know you do not support his amendment as it weakens everyone’s right to be free from discrimination. Keep an eye out for any public consultation that Givan has alluded to on his twitter feed.

The Green Party includes members with a diverse range of faiths and none, united with a  common interest in creating a sustainable and prosperous future for everyone in our country. Find out more at .

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Lagan Valley Green Party supports People’s NHS campaign

In recent years, our local hospital has faced many threats. Lagan Valley’s residents know only too well about the closures of our A&E – but not many will know about one of the biggest so far to our local hospital and indeed the entire health service. It is called the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” – or TTIP for short. It is basically a deal between the USA and EU that allows international corporations to act without hindrance. It is a free trade deal. Since 2012, the NHS has been effectively turned into a marketplace. Big corporations, under TTIP, could bid for all government spending, including for NHS services. TTIP would prioritize the rights of corporations over patient care standards and safety.

You may think that it is only right that the NHS gets a bit of a shake as its standards have slipped in recent years. That may be the case in some places, but TTIP would make this far less likely to happen. TTIP replaces care standards with profit margins. You may think privatization of the NHS is OK- as long as it Is closely regulated, but here is the catch – TTIP is all about de-regulation. We realize there are some people who think free trade is a good idea. The great thing about this campaign is that it is only asking the NHS to be exempt from TTIP, not scrap the whole thing.

This means everyone who values the NHS can sign it no matter what their economic views. The aim of all private industry is to make a profit above all else. This is simply too big a threat to everything we expect from the NHS – standards judged on outcome rather than only low cost, years of experience and above all, open to all regardless of ability to pay. TTIP would also let corporations sue the government if they aren’t getting their way, which would waste a lot more taxpayer’s money. Take the recent decision in China against pharmaceutical giant GSK as a warning of what can go wrong with private business and health.

That’s why we are happy to support the petition and call on David Cameron to use his veto in the EU to make sure we aren’t gambling with our NHS. There is already so much pressure on our health service for many reasons; let’s not deal it the fatal blow. We urge everyone to research the issue for themselves, and sign the petition at We also encourage our colleagues in all parties to get together on this one.

Picture: Lagan Valley Greens members signing the petition in Hillsborough.