– Labour Alternative aims to capture desire for change reflected in success of Corbyn, Sanders and radical left in the South
– Party calls for votes for 16 and 17-year-olds
– Candidates will provide “a radical voice for young people, women, LGBT rights and the working class”
– East Belfast voters will be able to vote for Robinson in May – but the politics on offer will be very different
Two teenagers from across the sectarian divide have been announced as the first candidates in the upcoming Assembly election for Labour Alternative – a new cross-community, left-wing party. Comprised of trade unionists, socialists and campaigners for LGBT and women’s rights, the group summarises its aims as:
– To fight against austerity, for workers’ rights and a better life for all
– To fight for equality and against discrimination
– To advocate compromise rather than conflict on the issues which divide our communities
– To build a new kind of politics against the sectarian agenda of the past.
The party aims to put fighting for the rights of young people to the fore in its campaign, including a call for votes at 16.
Voters in East Belfast will have the opportunity to vote for at least one Robinson in May, although the politics on offer will be very different from those of the DUP. Courtney Robinson (18) – born and bred in the constituency and a socialist activist since she was 14 – is to stand for Labour Alternative.
In 2014, Courtney took part in the Abortion Pill Train, which saw the medicines openly transported from Belfast to Dublin and taken publicly in defiance of the law. She led a protest outside the last DUP conference, calling on them to stop blocking same-sex marriage. In the wake of a racist arson attack on a business in east Belfast in April last year, Courtney was central to a community protest which mobilised hundreds onto the streets. A call centre worker and trade unionist, she helped organise the 2012 March for a Future which crossed the Shankill-Falls peaceline in opposition to education cuts and youth unemployment. Courtney has previously served as Students’ Union President at Belfast Met, the largest further education college in Northern Ireland.
Explaining why she is standing, Courtney said:
“Across the globe, there is a growing appetite for change, especially among young people. It was reflected in the stunning election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership and the ongoing surge behind Bernie Sanders in the US. In the South, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and the radical left are set to make a historic breakthrough in the upcoming general election. The same desire for an alternative exists here. Young people are sick and tired of the dinosaurs up at Stormont. We’re fed up with the endless sectarian bickering. It seems all the politicians can agree upon is that jobs and education must be cut to the bone and that women must be denied the right to control our own bodies. It’s time for a new kind of politics. I’m standing to provide a radical voice for young people, women, LGBT rights and the working class.”
Seán Burns (19) – another young activist with years of experience – will also be standing for the party in South Belfast. As part of a campaign against cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance, Seán took part in a protest which disrupted Assembly proceedings and occupied the Department of Employment & Learning headquarters. A member of Unite the Union’s Irish Youth Committee, he helped build for the recent Rally for a Future in Ballymena in response to threatened manufacturing job losses. A committed campaigner for LGBT rights, Seán spoke alongside Mike Jackson of Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners (featured in the move Pride) at last summer’s Fight4Equality festival in Belfast.
Announcing the party’s call for votes at 16, Seán said:
“Young people – Protestant, Catholic and neither – will be hit hardest by the austerity policies of the Green and Orange politicians. Despite the supposed economic recovery, around one in five young people are unemployed. Many are being forced to leave in search of jobs and education. The Stormont politicians are mortgaging our futures as they give ever more handouts to the fat cats. Meanwhile, they are holding back progress on marriage equality and the right to choose. The political establishment can only offer a future of division, discrimination and poverty. That’s simply not good enough. Young people must have a say. That’s why Labour Alternative is demanding the right to vote for 16 and 17-year-olds.”
The party plans to announce further candidates and prominent supporters in the near future.