Thursday, 17 January 2013

'On the ground'

One of the phrases that I have heard used in some circles in recent days is 'on the ground'.  And the context of its use is important.  Listening to the media and looking at FaceBook posts some people say that they are 'on the ground' and then go on to say that politicians are not 'on the ground'.
But what does that mean and is it true?  Well I can only speak for myself but here is how I see it.
I don't live and work on another planet and I am not detached from the community in North Belfast. In the course of my work I meet constituents and talk to them every day.  In the past week, along with party colleagues such as Nigel Dodds, I have met community activists, including a group of protest organisers, and tonight we attended a pan-unionist meeting involving the North & West Belfast Parades Forum and the Loyal Orders.  There are more meetings with constituents, community groups and sports organisations planned for next week.
We have four DUP offices in North Belfast and they are open five days a week, with people calling in and phoning in about all sorts of issues.
Outside of work I meet people in the constituency every day of the week, whether it be walking round Tesco doing the shopping, or having a cup of coffee in the Abbeycentre, or whatever, including the church hall and the Orange hall.  People do stop to talk and politics is often on the agenda.  I also engage with people by e-mail, my blog and FaceBook and all engagement, whether it be in the course of work or in the course of everyday life is extremely valuable.  I wish I could do more but there are only 24 hours in the day.
If that isn't being 'on the ground' I don't know what is and that is how I have always lived.  But just as important as being 'on the ground' is working 'on the ground'. 
Moreover it is not simply a matter of hearing the views of others and talking to them.  Time and time again the things that I hear, the concerns, the frustrations, the hopes, the aspirations etc are the same concerns, frustrations, hopes and aspirations that I hold myself.
We are all human and we all have our shortcomings but those three things really matter - being 'on the ground', working 'on the ground' and having a passion for Ulster in my heart.

I speak for myself and my party colleagues in the constituency I represent but the same is true for many other politicians.  Last month I was up in Lisburn to see community projects in the Old Warren estate and to provide support for them and it was very clear that the DUP MLAs and councillors have a high level of engagement with the loyalist community in that estate - a good example of good practice.

1 comment:

  1. Are Ardoyne residents who make-up GARC not your Constituents also? If so, why have you repeatedly refused to meet them to discuss their opposition to Loyal Order parades up & down the Crumlin Road?


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