Change in Londonderry air

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Real politics has broken out in Northern Ireland - and that’s no bad thing according to Ulster Unionist Foyle candidate Julia Kee.

The Waterside-based community worker says the issues dominating voters’ minds on the doorsteps are the bread and butter issues which have always dominated in the rest of the UK.

“People are looking for newness and change,” she says.

“People are worried about real things. They are not worried about the DUP and Sinn Fein infighting or orange and green.

“They are worried about the economy, jobs, their children getting jobs, education, cuts in health care. People are genuinely worried about real things.

“It is refreshing to hear for us as a party because we are very much about looking for change and looking to the future. We can’t keep looking back and I think that is what has been happening at Stormont this last eight years.

“Politics in Northern Ireland has got to the stage that the two main parties make the decisions and they consult with nobody.”

Kee says she is part of a new younger generation which is unburdened by issues which have dogged Ulster politicians in the past.

But she says that her experience gained working in the community sector have informed her opinions.

“We do need younger people coming into politics, but they have to be the right younger people,” she says.

“There’s no point in putting a 20-year-old in there who has absolutely no idea about what is going on. I wouldn’t have had any idea at that age.

“My work in the community has guided my choices as far as my politics is concerned.

“I do have a lot of networks and contacts on the ground in communities. That’s who we have to consult with. It is all about what the community needs what individuals need. It’s not about making decisions on people’s behalf and not consulting them about it.

“We have seen an upsurge in the UUP of young people and Queen’s now has a youth wing of the party which is very strong. Spring conference filled with young people, young articulate people.

“There is no point in bringing in young people to carry on in exactly the same way as the old guard.”

The battle within unionism in Foyle is going to be keenly fought at this election, but probably more pertinently at next year’s Assembly elections.

And Kee believes the UUP are ready to grasp back serious ground from the DUP,

“In all of the place we have canvassed the place that I have found the most apathy would be Newbuildings which is known as a DUP stronghold. They are not voting for anybody, they don’t trust anybody.

“People always want to know how we differ from the DUP. I differ because I would be quite liberal in my views and forward thinking. I don’t want to look back and I want to think about the next generation and want to stop thinking about the conflict and the troubles.

“We all know there is a legacy left because of it but we need to start working through that. We would be forward thinking whereas other parties tend to look back and be dated in their views and their opinions.

“On gay marriage I am for equality and I have the freedom to make that choice within our party. That shows a progression within unionism, I think, and the UUP in particular to be able to have a conscience.”

Change in attitude, Kee says, is happening with the electorate and therefore needs to happen amongst politicians.

“Arguments over symbols and emblems and things like the Irish language are just silly,” she says. “Let’s think about a way forward for everyone - equality and equity.

“If people want somebody that’s new, get rid of old politics and elect somebody who wants change.

“I’m Derry-Londonderry born and bred. I have a passion for the area and want to see it succeed.

“I want future generations to have opportunities that people don’t have now.

“I’m a unionist and want to stay within the union. Culturally economically and socially, staying in the union is best for Northern Ireland.”