Trevor Lunn backing gay marriage confirms why I departed Alliance

Frazer McCammond, leader of Democracy First, former Alliance councillor
Frazer McCammond, leader of Democracy First, former Alliance councillor

The writing was on the wall in August 2012 when a high profile Alliance representative publicly stated that because they were Christian they had to support same sex marriage.

As a former Alliance elected member on Lisburn City Council and party executive member and erstwhile voter for the party, this public statement was completely counter-intuitive to my Christian beliefs and values.

When my longstanding friend Trevor Lunn changed his stance to support gay marriage, I knew I had made the right decision to leave Alliance.

Having left politics in 2001 with no intention of returning, a spark was ignited within me which has brought me as a Christian along a pathway I was reluctant to follow.

As my struggle with an increasingly secular world – impinging not only on wider society but on our Christian beliefs and values, values which formed the bedrock of society and the moral imperatives allied to it which we have hitherto relied upon – increased, it was to be compounded yet further.

In November 2012 the flags protest erupted when I found myself working in north Belfast and for the first time in my life having an opportunity to engage with good folk of the Shankill and beyond.

To learn of the gulf that existed between them and their elected representatives, to learn first-hand of the oppressive grip that the paramilitaries still exert in those communities and to hear of the hurt and anguish of that community to the further apparent attack on their culture because of the flag issue.

This writer has never been a unionist yet as I conversed with these people my heart was heavy with a real sense of injustice and a real empathy for them. I certainly hope I can stand in another man’s shoes before I demand the public licensing of his expression of culture.

Throw on top of that 355,000 people in poverty in Northern Ireland and 122,000 children in absolute poverty (NI Executive Bulletin ‘Poverty in Northern Ireland 2010-11’ published June 2012).

The 355.000 people represent 20% of our population, and are largely in work.

Child poverty continues to increase!

Injustices are all around us and this writer has seen little political will to deal with these injustices.

Fundamentally I am not a unionist, even though my family pedigree might suggest I should be, I am not a nationalist either and until recent times Alliance was the best half-way house.

Given the secular charge of the Alliance party fronted confusingly by Christians I found myself without any political home.

Alliance have abandoned me and many others for whom Christian values are the core of our being. In the words of an acquaintance “Frazer, you are a political orphan” spoke so readily of the truth.

Democracy First is not a replication of Alliance.

It is different in that it fundamentally recognises the value of our respective cultures, British, Irish and other; that it is imperative that our cultures be embraced and our respective stories be told and shared so that one day no matter our background as we learn of the hurts caused by us and to us we learn to accept that different person – that we give that different person their place in society.

This is much more than the hollow ambition of a shared future underpinned by tolerance and respect. One day it may even open up the possibility of forgiveness and repentance.

Democracy First is cross–community founded in March 2014 on clear values of reconciliation, justice, active compassion, respect for life, wise-stewardship and principled pluralism.

Our constitutional position is also clear – the Good Friday Agreement 1998 is the starting point for the evolution of one diverse community.

Our policy priorities will be underpinned by our values which we will not give way on.

So who makes up our constituency?

Potentially everyone who can identify with our values but particularly people of faith Catholic, Protestant and others for whom our values are matters of the heart and for those moderate unionists and nationalists who have disengaged from politics, for whom their identity is quietly important but not, like this writer, the dominant feature of their political will.

Back to our policy priorities- the Economy, the Economy and the Economy – Democracy First would not have cut the budget for the economy.

• Frazer McCammond is leader of Democracy First