The chairperson of Ulster’s newly founded pro-Union party NI21, Tina McKenzie, is to stand next month in the European elections.
The mother-of-three, whose father is ex-IRA bomber Harry Fitzsimons - who was last year reportedly held in an Italian jail on money laundering charges - said she is “passionate about building a better future for Northern Ireland”.
“As a party, we are offering the electorate something new, a move away from the tired, tribal, and ineffective politics to a place where we can confidently stand up and be proud to say together we are from Northern Ireland.”
She said she wants to bring a message of a united 21st century Northern Ireland to the heart of Europe, breaking down perceptions that we only exist as ‘them and us’.
Ms McKenzie, a senior director in the employment services industry, said she wants “to maximise the potential of Europe and will focus on getting the best for Northern Ireland, not the best for any one community”.
“I want to represent and promote our people, their talents, skills, commitment and drive to improve Northern Ireland and Europe.
“NI21 represents everyone equally with the same levels of commitment and enthusiasm.
“I will hold the Northern Ireland Executive to account on its European performance, as a member of Northern Ireland’s unofficial opposition.
“Europe represents seven per cent of the world’s population; it produces 22 per cent of the world’s GDP and accounts for 50 per cent of the world’s social expenditure.
“To maintain our way of life Europe needs to become more competitive and attractive to investment.”
She said in the Province “we have an economy which has historically underperformed and with unacceptable levels of youth unemployment in particular, we need a clear focus on jobs and growth”.
She added: “Developing the European economy into a worldwide competitive, knowledge economy is one of the most important challenges for the EU in the years to come.”
Ms McKenzie, whose working life allowed her extensive experience of working in Europe, said “Northern Ireland needs to be at the centre of European reform maximising the potential of the single market, European investment, funding, knowledge-exchange and skills development”.
“This is the only way to ensure we have enough good jobs for people in the future – with youth unemployment rates at over 22 per cent this is vitally important,” she added.
“We want to stand on a clear agenda for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs.
“My background in business means I can get the most for our economy.
“We need to ensure that the Northern Ireland Executive maximises the opportunities and impact of European funding and investment.”