A man who has never voted in his life has set up a political party with the aim of bringing ‘common sense’ to the Assembly.
Tom Burns, a 58-year-old retired driving instructor, has set up the Common Sense Party NI and said that he has spent thousands of pounds on the venture.
Mr Burns’s radical proposals include the creation of “a new proper road to link the upper Crumlin Road with the Glencairn Estate to allow the Twelfth parade to march through this receptive area” and to relieve traffic congestion in the area.
To build the road, Mr Burns would offer £1 million for each householder whose homes would have to be demolished. He argued that it would be cheaper than the multi-million pound cost of policing the Twaddell standoff.
Taking an interest in politics in retirement, the north Belfast-born man had joined Ukip last year and had hoped to be its candidate in North Belfast. But he quit the party after objecting to questions –including ‘what school did you attend?’ – asked of him when he came before a selection panel.
He said that about 20 people attended a party meeting earlier this week but that “nobody else wanted to put their head above the parapet until they saw how I fared”.
Mr Burns now lives in Lisburn so cannot vote for himself. When asked if he will vote this time in Lisburn for the first time in his life, he said: “I doubt it.”
The political novice accepted that he won’t be topping the poll on May 6. He said: “Realistically, I might skim in as the sixth person – if things go well.”
Mr Burns, who has even designed a clothing range which he wore while speaking to the News Letter, said that the party would be “pro-UK until the electorate chooses differently” but would recognise British, Irish and Northern Ireland heritage.
Unusually, there would be no party whip (discipline), with elected representatives free to vote with their conscience on “various matters”.
When asked what those issues would be, Mr Burns said that if someone disapproved of alcohol or believed that the recent ban on smoking in hospital grounds was draconian, they could vote on those sorts of issues as they see fit.
He added: “That’s common sense.”
However, despite his efforts, Mr Burns may not be able to stand for the party. He missed the Electoral Commission’s deadline for registering as a political party and is in dispute with the commission.
If that is not resolved, his name will appear on ballot papers without any party logo.
‘Common Sense’ policies
•All religions, political aspirations, ethnic backgrounds and sexualities welcome
•All able-bodied persons should have a job working for the government “at a proper rate of pay”, working on public works to improve roads, the environment, etc.
• Derelict shops and houses should be vested and refurbished under public works schemes
• The building of a toll bridge across Belfast Lough