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, 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.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Lagan Valley Greens create petition for Book of Condolence for Nelson Mandela

The Lagan Valley Green Party has reacted with sadness at the decision of Lisburn's Mayor, Margaret Tolerton, to refuse to create a book of condolence for Nelson Mandela. In doing so we believe she has made Mandela's death a political issue, when there was no need to do so.

Secondly it has tarnished Lisburn's image at a time of year when we need as much goodwill as we can get to foster our town's economy. We believe that the many residents of Lisburn who wish to convey their sympathy and warm regards to the surviving family and those who have felt the loss worldwide should have the ability to do so.

In the past Lisburn City Council has opened these books for Alex Higgins and George Best as well as other prominent figures upon news of their deaths. Why not Nelson Mandela, who is held up worldwide as an exemplary person?

We have created an online petition for all those who wish to have a book of condolence in Lisburn Civic Centre. It can be found, and digitally signed, at:

It is also linked to on our twitter account @lvgreens and at  .

We hope common sense will prevail and Margaret Tolerton reverses her decision.

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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Time for a Change

This weekend has been another ugly episode in Northern Ireland's recent past. Trouble started at a protest called by the Orange Order, at the decision by the Parades Commission not to allow an Orangemen's march to take place in North Belfast on 12 July.

The protest turned to a riot, with some truly shocking scenes, as police, including reinforcements from GB, tried to enforce the ban. Dozens of police were injured. Nigel Dodds MLA was knocked unconscious. Since that day, there have been clashes between protesters and police every night and not just in the Woodvale Road area.

Matt Baggott, the Chief Constable of PSNI, described the Orange Order's call for a protest as reckless. Although they called for "peaceful protest", it seems extremely unlikely they would not have known violence was a highly likely outcome. The Parades Commission did not make their decision by tossing a coin in the air - they knew the risks and warned us of them.

As with the flags protests earlier in the year, the majority, the peace-loving people of Northern Ireland, watch with deep sadness as their country is torn apart and its image is destroyed yet again, with these pictures of violence being shown in the national and international media. How depressing and yet how seemingly inevitable it has become, for the twelfth July celebrations to descend into anarchy and destruction.

We need to take a step back from here. In 1998 all sides of the Northern Ireland political debate made some sacrifices in order to reach a better future. There were difficult decisions made, but there was an understanding that without these compromises, there would be no peace; the stability that this country so badly needed would never come. Now, we need to remember the lessons we learned in the run-up to the Good Friday agreement. There need to be sacrifices made by the Orange Order. Yes, the traditions are important. But if a peaceful twelfth means sacrificing one or two of the marching routes, this must be a price worth paying.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Response to controversial Lisburn City Mayoral Selection

Despite the political progress in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday agreement, unfortunate reminders of the past resurface from time to time.

In the recent selection of Mayor for Lisburn City Council, it was disappointing to see that the main point discussed by our councillors, in essence, was the candidates view on the Northern Ireland border.

We expect the alternative candidate, Cllr Martin, would feel little pride in being considered for Mayor mostly on the basis that he is not a member of the DUP or Sinn Fein! Whilst we hope that councillors can resolve this issue amicably amongst themselves, we would like to offer a few notes of concern.

The first is that most of the pageantry and decoration around Lagan Valley’s towns, especially at this time of year, comes from one side of the community.

Since our retailers depend from trade emanating from the residents in the Republic of Ireland, especially in Sprucefield, surely we want a shared city.

Many residents of Lisburn City Council who live in areas such as Twinbrook and Poleglass feel closer to West Belfast – meaning Lisburn’s retailers lose their trade.

We are in favour of people celebrating their culture peacefully and respectfully. However when added to other recent measures such as renaming Ballymacoss playing fields as the ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ playing fields, huge pageants celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee and the ill-fated attempt to give the Orange Order the Freedom of the City, we have to ask ourselves some serious questions.

Are we doing all we can to make sure that Lisburn is an open and welcoming place for all our citizens? Are we diffusing very real and volatile tensions within our community? Have our councillors been good stewards of our city and worked for the benefit of all our people?

Many loyalists, after the flags protests, expressed disappointment that the people they had elected to represent them had not represented them properly.

Secondly, we are concerned that this Mayoral appointment does not bode well for the proposed merger of Lisburn City and Castlereagh Borough councils. It has already been dubbed a ‘unionist super-council’ by some and indeed it looks likely it will become a DUP held council. Due to the loss of Dunmurry Cross, it looks like a lot of nationalist seats will go too. Will this loss of representation and equilibrium allow the DUP to go ahead virtually unopposed with measures that the public do not support?

When will politics in Lagan Valley join the modern age, leaving single issue disputes behind? The Green Party in Lagan Valley wants to see a truly shared space, where people do not avoid Lisburn due to its reputation. It is time we put our citizens first and supported our local businesses with some positive PR!