More in common 
than we realise

Gerry O hEara
Gerry O hEara

Paradoxically it has been his work promoting the Irish language which Foyle Sinn Fein candidate Gearoid O’hEara says has given him a much better understanding of the Protestant population in the city.

His work with An Culturlann and with the 2013 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann as part of the UK City of City programme was the catalyst for that.

“The Fleadh was a great opportunity for engagement,” he says.

“In April 2012 we had a strategy meeting to plan the Fleadh for August 2013 and we set down a list of objectives. Promoting traditional music was core work but we said let’s have an inclusive Fleadh and make sure that the entire community participates. We then started contacting groups in the Waterside like the Waterside Area Partnership and said we really wanted them to be involved.

“But talking about music we realised that we weren’t very far apart. It was the same tunes, different names, played to a different tempo and the only reason for that was that they slowed down their tunes to sync with their marching. They play their music standing up where we have people sitting around in chairs.

“So we found that really we had a lot in common.

“There was suspicion of our motives but I think we convinced them that we were genuine about trying to host an inclusive event. I do think that was critical.

“I think the city should be an inclusive city and would like to look forward to a point where everybody feels a sense of ownership about the city.”

O’hEara says his party’s policy of abstentionism will have no impact at all on his ability to represent the people of the city.

“It is a principle within Republicanism. If you look at it from a very practical point of view you have to ask what material benefit has come from Westminster to this city over the last ten years? I don’t think that there is much in Westminster that can materially benefit or change the lives of the people of this city.

“We actually do everything that any other MP does except practice oratory at debates in the Chambers. I do not actually believe that there is a vote or contribution from the floor of that house that affects in any way the decisions they are going to make.

“We are almost irrelevant to the main parties in England. The centre of politics here is in Stormont.

“I also think that the role of an MP could be more with what they do in their home town in bringing together all the strands. Bringing together and harnessing all the political influences and civic influences.

“We have a One Plan which covers everybody so I think that the MP could straddle the life of this city and create a lot of unity of purpose. I would like to be involved in that.

“I think the future prosperity of this city is based on reconciliation. I have been saying it and doing it as much as I possibly can.

“I would like to deepen that engagement.

“I would like to expand that range of work and I think that it is imperative that we operate going forward as a single united city.”