In Conversation with Gregory Campbell

Our first interview with an MP here at the Youth Voice and certainly an interesting one. Gregory Campbell of the DUP, MP for East Londonderry since 2001. We discussed votes at 16, mandatory coalition, a border poll and whether the DUP needs to modernise.

The DUP haven’t been particularly vocal about votes at 16, in Ireland both North and South it isn’t an issue that seems to be particularly important to any of the major parties however as a young person it’s an issue that is very important to me. According to Mr Campbell the DUP will certainly engage in the discussion however would rather focus on increasing turnout amongst the 18-21 age group who are notorious for a low voter turnout. The DUP fear that allowing votes at 16 may make turnout percentages even worse however the DUP will engage in the debate and will consider both arguments.

This lead to a discussion about political education in schools, Mr Campbell agreed that we need to start considering reforming political education in schools. He went on to say that there historically appeared to be an unwillingness amongst teachers to discuss politics within the classroom however times have changed and it’s time to start getting people educated and involved. At the minute politics is not part of the syllabus other than for A level and GCSE politics however these subjects are not offered in many schools.

Our next topic was about the modernisation of the DUP, I put forward the idea that in recent elections the DUP saw significant losses due to their conservative position on social issues. Mr Campbell disagreed, he believed that those losses were possibly due to the lack of a Stormont Assembly when the election took place as both Sinn Féin and the DUP saw losses. However Gregory understood the importance of the DUP being aware of the social changes around issues like Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion Rights. He understands that if a party does not change with the times and buries its head in the sand eventually it will get left behind or drowned in the tide.

Another topic of discussion was mandatory coalition, with parties like Alliance supporting a transition to voluntary coalition in Stormont. We discussed how mandatory coalition inhibits change and allows the big 5 to remain relatively complacent in regards to their position in the Executive due to the 5 party coalition. A move to a voluntary system would force the larger parties to engage properly with their electorate and to gain public support.

We also discussed the idea of a border poll and the factors that would decide the result. We agreed that a poll on the constitutional position of NI is almost inevitable, and that it would be decided by the economic situation for example the Brexit situation alongside social issues. Mr Campbell raised the idea about accommodation of British and Irish identity, in his opinion the U.K. is a lot more accommodating of Irish identity in comparison with Irish accommodation of British identity. We also discussed the importance of the campaigning in the event of a border poll, there must be a degree of respect and political toxicity should be avoided in order to protect the people of NI having had to deal with the controversy of Brexit NI is in a period of uncertainty and in the event of a border poll it must be done to protect people’s peace of mind.

This was one of the more interesting interviews that I’ve done so far. Going into it I undoubtedly had built an opinion on Mr Campbell simply from watching debates and his controversial “curry my yoghurt” moment in the assembly. However I was pleasantly surprised, Mr Campbell was far from the aggressive unionist figure as portrayed in the media but was rather a politician who believes not only in looking after his constituency but what he feels is best for NI. He was our first unionist politician to take part in an interview and I hope to have many more in order to encourage dialogue and diversity of opinion.

By Dermot Hamill


In Conversation with Gerry Carroll

Today’s interview was with People Before Profit MLA for West Belfast, Gerry Carroll. The interview is also available on YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify.

The first topic of discussion was votes at 16. Gerry stressed that his party supported it. We discussed the idea that young people are not as informed as older people, yet a large part of the older population would be unable to explain the inner workings of electoral systems or the allocation of ministers, ultimately rendering this argument invalid. We also discussed low turnout amongst younger voters, I put forward the idea that young people aren’t politically educated in schools and don’t build good habits of going out to vote. Gerry talked about how his party would like to enhance the education system both giving young people education about political systems and voting alongside education about to how different parts of society work.

The next topic was the NI Youth Assembly, People Before Profit have consistently shown support for the Youth Assembly, going as far as calling for funding for a Youth Assembly even in the event of Executive collapse akin to what we had in 2017. Gerry also put forward the idea of having a Ministerial question time for the Youth Assembly, it would entail a session every month giving young people a chance to question the 12 Ministers of the Executive.

We also discussed the proposed NI centenary celebrations. There had been clashes between the big 4 Nationalist and Unionist parties over whether to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of NI. Gerry explained that while PBP would not celebrate the creation of the Cruel conservative state south of the border or the discriminatory unionist government in the North. PBP would however engage in debate and discussion about how to navigate such a controversial issue. PBP would also choose to honour the revolutionaries who face persecution both North and South of the border, alongside the Protestants and Catholics who were forced out of work and homes.

The 4 words to ruin any dinner party “let’s talk about Brexit” PBP initially supported Brexit as ultimately it was not a right wing idea however it was pirated by right wing figures like Farage and Johnson, who contrasted with War criminals like the “detestable Tony Blair” and his top spin doctor Alastair Campbell. PBP however campaigned against a Tory Brexit and believed that any deal should go to the people of NI. A bit like young people Scotland and Northern Ireland were expected to “shut up” and accept Brexit despite both nations voting against it. PBP argue that Brexit was not just a binary issue and the first referendum was a campaign of misinformation and fear from both sides.

My interview with Gerry was extremely insightful and showed that PBP want to properly support young people on both sides of the border.

Gerry was very pleasant and I got the sense that he really believes in his party’s ideology. He spoke with real conviction and belief and it was a really enjoyable opportunity.

By Dermot Hamill


In conversation with Naomi Long

Our first article here at the youth voice, it had to be a big one. An interview with the Minister for Policing and Justice, Naomi Long of the Alliance Party.

The interview was intended to be a podcast but a technical difficulty lost any recording, however the interview went very well and I didn’t want to waste the Minister’s time so here we are.

Naomi was extremely pleasant, very honest and spoke with genuine conviction.

The first topic of discussion was votes at 16, following the implementation of votes at 16 in Welsh local elections I was keen to quiz the minister on her thoughts. She was absolutely in support of it coming into effect over here in NI hopefully by the next local government elections. We discussed the idea that everyone has the right to take part in democracy and the old slogan “no taxation without representation.”

Another topic was mandatory coalition. With the APNI announcing recently its support for a transition to a voluntary coalition I wanted to hear her views on the topic. Many people myself included were sceptical about the idea of normalised politics however Minister Long explained that her party supported a long term transition to voluntary coalition rather than a Bolshevik style revolution.

The final thing we spoke about was the controversial decision to fine BLM protesters in Belfast in the summer of 2020. Naomi reiterated her position of support for the BLM movement however said that it was a time were public health had to be prioritised. The conversation moved to the discussion about restrictions on civil liberties. The Minister said that she hoped to see a strengthening of hate crime laws and that the right to free speech also comes with the responsibility of respect. The Covid19 restrictions had been balanced largely between lives and livelihoods however the Minister said we should be considering “lives, livelihoods but also liberties.”

The interview was highly informative and unlike many senior figures Minister Long spoke to me with respect and honesty.

Written by Dermot Hamill