Love him or loathe him Basil McCrea’s decision to leave politics is a disappointing one.
This writer would not endorse all that NI21 stood for but the important point is that a face prepared to be different from the established parties will not be there to challenge them.
McCrea is clearly bruised and politics can do that but it is important that individuals and other groups do not give up.
Yesterday the Rowntree Trust have reported again on the disastrous state of the Northern Ireland economy, confirming what this writer has been sharing publically for some time.
The NI Executive made up of the five main parties (the UUP cannot recuse themselves of responsibility) have failed to deliver their own programme for government.
They have failed with the economy – 20% of our population in poverty, child poverty increasing.
Unemployment for young people in the 18-24 age group has doubled in the last 10 years.
They have clearly demonstrated an inability to think outside the box or with entrepreneurial flair.
They have failed with our education – selection needs to be resolved in the interest of all our children and a clear debate and resolution to the nature of our education sector needs to obtained once and for all.
They have failed with our health – or rather they have failed to have the courage to tell us what really needs to be done.
They have failed to deliver the much vaunted Shared Future policy which this writer believes to be fundamentally flawed in any event.
They abrogated their responsibility for welfare!
They have lost the trust of an increasing number of the electorate.
Trust the capstone of democracy and human rights is being dismantled by attacks on freedom of speech (Ashers), by financial impropriety (Nama), by politicians turning on their own strongly held principles upon which they were elected.
Trust is the real victim of the ineptitude of this and previous NI Assemblies.
It is time to restore trust.
Across Northern Ireland at the 2011 Assembly Election the DUP and Sinn Fein respectively took 16.4% and 14.7% first preference votes as a percentage of the total electorate. Some 46% of the electorate chose not to vote, a 50% increase since 1998. 46% - our largest constituency – unrepresented, yet with the power to change politics.
Many individuals for whom, like this writer, their respective cultures may be important but not necessarily the predominant motivator in their politics.
Democracy First will be standing in Lagan Valley on trust.
Never has it been more important in the interests of Northern Ireland that political pioneers be prepared to challenge the status quo.
Democracy First, whilst founded on values of Justice, Reconciliation, Respect for Life, Active Compassion, Wise Stewardship and Principled Pluralism, will champion the economy, the economy and the economy.
The people in Lagan Valley at least have an alternative to the old guard but I would encourage the electorate right across Northern Ireland to seek out individuals and groups with the courage to stand against the traditional parties.
We may not have an official opposition but at least return a significant number of independently minded individuals with courage and make the NI Executive accountable.
I ask the electorate “Can you really Trust in the same again for another four years?”
• Frazer McCammond is leader of Democracy First