Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

McCann meets…Anna Lo MLA #AimHighVoteLo

Fri 21 February 2014, 9:46pm

On Thursday evening I met the Alliance party’s European candidate, Anna Lo MLA for an interview about her experiences as a politician in Northern Ireland, the upcoming European elections and her future.

I began by asking her about her experience in being elected in 2007 and the support she garnered from the Chinese community in South Belfast;

I was very grateful for the support and really felt very emotional as some of them (Chinese community) had never voted ever in their lives. Some elderly people in their 80s said they had never voted in their lives, whether in China, Hong Kong or in Northern Ireland. So, for them to have that experience of feeling that they have a stake in society that they can vote for someone that can mean something.

As she spoke about her experience I pondered why Alliance and not the SDLP?

I like Alliance cross community ethos; I like Alliance priorities, the priority of a shared future. I live here, coming from outside, I respect peoples culture absolutely and I want people to respect my culture and identity but I think as I just don’t have the baggage of having a husband or relative involved in the Troubles or being a victim or killed, there was no baggage.

I have to say I have certainly always been very sympathetic to the SDLP as well. I like the Social Democratic and Labour ethos but I am so glad I joined the Alliance party but I know if I had been in SDLP there would have been issues I could not agree or they could not tolerate, for example, abortion, I could not be gagged.

I then asked her why just two MLAs in the Assembly are vocally in favour of abortion rights for women

MLAs are out of step with public opinion, because MLAs are dominated by middle aged men, very conservative, holding fundamental religious views with religious dogma that is why I think we are being held back.

On will the Alliance party leave the Executive Lo said;

I think there will probably come a time when there will be a structure for opposition. There is no structure at the moment so, if you’re out, you’re out, you cannot even have a look in but at least we are inside doing our bit.

But, what about the flag protests does she think that wll hurt Alliance come May?

I don’t think so, I think that while we may have lost some people over the flags issue, we gain a lot more. We have gained new members, we have gained young people, we have gained women to say that ours is the common sense approach.

Has she ever felt intimidated by some of the tactics used against the Alliance party?

I don’t feel intimidated, I felt angry. I think it actually makes me more resolute to do more, to want to make a better place here…It makes me feel that we still have a lot of work to do and to be honest I feel that Alliance has our work cut out to do it, because I don’t see leadership from the other parties to resolve this.

What about her run for Europe?

I am very pro Europe personally and my party is very pro Europe. I see lots and lots of benefits particularly for Northern Ireland. I know David Cameron is talking that we’re net contributors and we’re not getting enough back but when you look at it 49% roughly I think exports go to the EU and when you think of a single market with 500 million consumers that is a massive potential for Northern Ireland.

But, why should voters give her a first preference?

We are on policies and how best we can have access to the EU and how best we can here in Northern Ireland in terms of exports to EU, in terms of the Environment, in terms of social and economic improvement for ourselves.

In my final questions I asked about the recent racist attacks against her over the comments on the Giro di Italia

It was a bit of a surprise I think how vile, how offensive the language was. I have been kicked on the street here by racists; there was a bullet last year sent to a newspaper with a picture of me. So, you would say that I am a fairly seasoned politician in the face of adversity but I must say I was taken aback by the velocity. It annoyed me, but I felt angry, when I see injustice I always feel angry and it’s that anger that fires me up to do something.

I asked Anna were her comments on removing murals not a bit naive?

No. I think it’s the opposite David, I think I am realistic rather than naive. How long are we going to leave the murals on the gable walls? How long are we going to leave those flags there? Half of them in tatters, worn, faded; they have been there now for a year. How long are we going to tolerate this? There is no leadership from the Unionist parties to ask people to bring those flags down?

I concluded by asking her would this European campaign be her final election campaign ever?

Well, it’s still undecided I have to be honest. I am not too sure if I will run again for the 2016 election.

I was interested to know why such a passionate politician like Anna felt this way;

I think it’s only fair to say that some of us we feel quite frustrated with the lack of progress in Stormont. So, sometimes you ask yourself, what are you doing? What outcome are you seeing? I have got good qualifications I have degrees and I can go on and do something else but I love the committee, if nothing else it’s the environment committee that I love.

Full audio available here;

McCann meets…Anna Lo MLA by Ontherecord98fm on Mixcloud

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Comments (44)

  1. sherdy (profile) says:

    Isn’t it amazing that we need a stranger in our midst to be the one with the clear-sighted view.

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  2. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Sherdy, I’ve experienced a kind of corollary to that question. When people leave NI and settle abroad, they tend to dump all the daft baggage that they would have felt obliged to keep on carrying if they had stayed.

    Too many of us live in a mad little mouse-cage. We play relentlessly on the same little treadmill. We think and talk in Ancient Murine. A big electoral shock might be healthy for many of us.

    I’m not talking down to anyone like the Great Gonzo. For decades I carried a load of baggage myself, and cherished it.

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  3. Red Lion (profile) says:

    Sherdy – absolutely.

    Justin Cartwright is another one from foreign fields who brings a normal perspective to NI.

    I would say though, that plenty of the Northern Irish do have normal perspectives as found in other western democracies, its just that such perspectives are not yet reflected in most of our politicians or our devolved government structure.

    But that is slowly changing and the pace of change is showing signs of accelerating

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  4. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    Very good to hear Anna Lo praise the SDLP for its Labour values.

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  5. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Anna, for God’s sake upgrade your Blackberry already.

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  6. ArdoyneUnionist (profile) says:

    It seems Anna is not always consistent when it comes to protesters. Some protesters are more alliance than others.

    “An assembly member has said she is proud of her son after he was arrested while taking part in a pro-Tibet demonstration in London”.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7334310.stm

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  7. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    I would like to praise Alliance for choosing Anna Lo. Alex Attwood to one side, she is the best candidate for the Euros.

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  8. Neil (profile) says:

    Under what delusion would one labour to assume that one must either support or oppose all protesters? By that rationale one must support gay rights protests and Christian anti-gay protests, not a common position. Certainly the right to protest is key and should be supported but where your mates problem lies is in not being able to protest without breaking the law by blocking roads etc. Sadly as soon as they took the decision (forced on them by mass arrests) to stop breaking the law the protests dwindled away to nothing cause that’s no fun.

    I haven’t heard any Alliance (or any other person for that matter) complaining about your now pathetically attended legal protests so maybe that’s what the problem was in the first place – the illegal behaviour closing businesses and preventing actual employed people from attending their place of business. Obviously Anna’s son did break some kind of law (no charges in court I suspect) but then he didn’t endanger anyone’s life or interfere with anyone else’s life so no harm no foul.

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  9. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    Red Lion

    good to hear you praise Justin C. as Claire Hanna says he is a strong candidate. I hope he gets elected.

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  10. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    ArdoyneUnionist,

    I’m looking for the part where Anna said anything about protestors but not finding anything.

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  11. Shibboleth (profile) says:

    This exchange is very interesting as it is not often a politican acknowledges being a no-hoper in a forth coming election [EU].

    “I concluded by asking her would this European campaign be her final election campaign ever?”

    “Well, it’s still undecided I have to be honest. I am not too sure if I will run again for the 2016 election.”

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  12. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    Very clever election slogan. She is obviously fishing for SDLP transfer voters, which is probably a pretty wise strategy.

    @Charles,

    I think she was more in campaign mode than in analysis mode when she made that comment. I remember John Alderdice saying back in 1998 that before he joined Alliance in the mid-1980s he sent letters to several NI political parties inquiring about their platforms. He joined Alliance after the party actually sent someone over to speak to him. I always assumed that the other parties that he wrote to were probably the UUP and the SDLP.

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  13. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    ” I feel that Alliance has our work cut out to do it, because I don’t see leadership from the other parties to resolve this.”

    Anna Lo

    It was the Alliance party who did not sign up to the Haas deal.

    Their is nothing to stop the Alliance party dealing with this matter and taking direct action by removing flags themselves.

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  14. iluvni (profile) says:

    “We are on policies and how best we can have access to the EU and how best we can here in Northern Ireland in terms of exports to EU, in terms of the Environment, in terms of social and economic improvement for ourselves.”

    what a load of old cobblers.

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  15. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    tmitch

    ” She is obviously fishing for SDLP transfer voters, which is probably a pretty wise strategy.”

    I suppose in the Assembly and Council Election it is possible that SDLP might have spare votes to transfer to Alliance.

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  16. Greenflag (profile) says:

    There are only 15 MEP’s in a European Parliament of 785 who are non ethnic white Europeans and of those 15 , 4 are Turkish/Kurd and 2 are Roma Gypsy (Hungary ) . The European Parliament is probably the ‘whitest ‘ political institution on the planet .

    The people of Northern Ireland could do a lot worse than sending Anna Lo to Europe . Anna has spoken out against racism in Northern Ireland and she’d be the right person to speak out against the rise of recent fascist/racist MEP’s now in the European Parliament from some of the newer member states .

    Could also be a plus for Northern Ireland’s ‘political reputation ‘ abroad which lets face it could do with some improvement .

    I don’t know if Anna would be the first ethnic Chinese in the European Parliament but if not why not -A first for Northern Ireland and a bit of a jolt for all those stuffy /staid Eurocrats etc ?

    If I had a vote Anna would get the number 1 . Another positive spin off -it would upset SF/DUP/UUP – and remind them not to take the current carve up as forever ?

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  17. aquifer (profile) says:

    “Paint over the murals” “Give us abortion rights”

    Good to see a non-sectarian politician polarising opinion enough to get votes out of it.

    She has mine.

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  18. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    McSlaggart, if you’re going to propagandize you need more practice.

    It was the Alliance party who did not sign up to the Haas deal.

    There was no Haass deal and as such nothing to actually sign up to.

    Their is nothing to stop the Alliance party dealing with this matter and taking direct action by removing flags themselves.

    Stop being stupid. Politicians get elected and enact their policies, the authorities of the state carry them out.

    Illegal flags being erected on streets could be stopped overnight by aggressive use of CCTV to catch and then prosecute those responsible, and through the authorities removing flags late at night when nobody is around.

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  19. Red Lion (profile) says:

    A paramilitary mural was painted over in the Cregagh Estate at very short notice just before George Best’s funeral.

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  20. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin

    “Politicians get elected and enact their policies, the authorities of the state carry them out.”

    Apparently in your world if you do not get elected you are not a politician?

    Both the sdlp and sf politicians will take “direct action” over certain issues. I remember being at the Hospital road 12th Bonfire in Omagh full of Bríd Rodgers election posters because of her actions in relation to Drumcree.

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  21. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Well Comrade doublespeak is apparently part of an Alliance strategic approach to Haass. When Richard Haass said “accepting the deal was not a close call”. Alliance could not bring themselves to do it. I find it strange that this rebel Alliance does not follow the ideals of the Old Republic.

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  22. DC (profile) says:

    Illegal flags being erected on streets could be stopped overnight by aggressive use of CCTV to catch and then prosecute those responsible, and through the authorities removing flags late at night when nobody is around.

    Just like the police are constantly out on beat, patrolling the area protecting it from burglars, anti-social behaviour etc.

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  23. Tir Chonaill Gael (profile) says:

    “…or example, abortion, I could not be gagged”

    What a pity then that she’s tried to bully others, who don’t share her pro-abortion stance, into silence. Mickey Harte, for example.

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  24. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin

    ” the authorities removing flags late at night”

    Which authority and who pays for it?

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  25. Framer (profile) says:

    Cde Stalin as something less than a full blooded statist I don’t understand why you are so dismissive of a self-help operation like the Alliance Party removing items from street furniture.
    I do, not least flapping cable ties left over from election posters. DRD jobsworths won’t touch them.

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  26. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    I do not know any details about Anna lo and Mickey Harte but as I am absolutely sure that Anna is not one to “bully” your interpretation of their exchange has to be down to an odd interpretation.

    Though I do not want to deflect from the subject Of this post down the well worn abortion path, let me tell you also from what I remember
    From newspapers, that Mickey Harte weighed into debate urging Stormont politicians to close down Marie stopes clinic in Belfast. Many like myself were shocked at his intervention in political football.

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  27. IJP (profile) says:

    Haass can say what he likes, there was no deal to sign up to. The section on flags says as much.

    The section on the past was thorough – thus Alliance called for its implementation.

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  28. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    I’d prefer to see them doing deals on Economy and Education. Not Flags and the Past.

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  29. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    @ IJP

    Alliance said the Haass talks did not finally resolve the issue on flags. 1

    Its good to see Anna of Alliance saying that “I don’t feel intimidated”. I am sure she did not mean for others to do the dirty work?
    1

    “”I said we wouldn’t go into these talks to cook fudge and we wouldn’t sell fudge. However the proposals on flags was fudge to make a lack of deal more palatable to the public. During the talks, Unionists refused a deal on flags on lampposts and Nationalists refused a deal on flags on Council and Government buildings. We wanted to see the issue of flags finally resolved across the board.”

    Naomi

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  30. Tir Chonaill Gael (profile) says:

    granni

    Lo told Harte to “stick to the GAA” for having the audacity to state a position on public policy – a pathetic, bullying attempt at stifling political discourse.

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  31. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    McSlaggart,

    Come back when you have something coherent to say that isn’t based on stupid anecdotes.

    Framer,

    I see. Should politicians who oppose crime start engaging in citizens arrests too then ?

    TCG

    Harte using his public profile as part of the GAA to intervene in a political matter is his right but people also have a right to call him out on it, which is what Anna did. This isn’t bullying.

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  32. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin

    “stupid anecdotes”

    Is that your way of saying Anna Lo and the rest of Alliance elected representatives will not be doing the hard yards in difficult situations. I am left to wonder why Alban Maginness thinks he is needed on the street when he could be at home on the phone telling the authorities what they should be doing.

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  33. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    I hope to expect more from Alliance on the European campaign, maybe if we are lucky we can have an issues based European debate with detailed manifesto analysis. More attention has been given to a non-existent Petty Kingdom fight between the DUP and UUP.

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  34. gaygael (profile) says:

    I think Anna Lo was entirely right to challenge Mickey Harte. He used his profile as a sports person to wade into this argument. Anna Lo, as one of the very few out MLA in favour of abortion rights for women, was only right to give it back to him. She is very much in the minority of politicians of being so vocal on this issue. Just wish there were a few more and it properly reflected public opinion.

    I also think This Mickey Harte story may suggest something else about his attitude to women.
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/womans-fury-as-sex-attacker-given-reference-by-gaa-boss-harte-is-jailed-for-twoandahalf-years-29102469.html

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  35. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    McSlaggart,

    The sheer banality combined with incoherence of your waffly comments leaves me baffled. What exactly in God’s name are you talking about ?

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  36. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin
    “incoherence of your waffly”

    From the person who wrote:

    “Illegal flags being erected on streets could be stopped overnight by aggressive use of CCTV to catch and then prosecute those responsible, and through the authorities removing flags late at night when nobody is around.”

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  37. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin

    It is simple Mr Stalin when is Anna and Alliance going to start taking down the flags that they are complaining about?

    “How long are we going to leave those flags there? Half of them in tatters, worn, faded; they have been there now for a year. How long are we going to tolerate this? ”

    Anna Lo MLA

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  38. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    The Alliance approach to flags is socially authoritarian.

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  39. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    “Cde Stalin as something less than a full blooded statist I don’t understand why you are so dismissive of a self-help operation like the Alliance Party removing items from street furniture.”

    @Framer,

    Even libertarians see law and order and defense as proper functions for the state. As flags are used in NI to mark territory, removing them can potentially provoke a confrontation and even violence. Therefore it is a natural function for the police. If Alliance starting removing UVF flags then people like DC would wonder why they weren’t also removing tricolors. And as many nationalists perceive Alliance as a unionist party, this could provoke intersectional violence.

    “The Alliance approach to flags is socially authoritarian.”

    @Charles,

    Whatever that means.

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  40. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    It is simple Mr Stalin when is Anna and Alliance going to start taking down the flags that they are complaining about?

    Because Alliance members aren’t a vigilante group and are not armed or trained in law enforcement ? Maybe ?

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  41. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    tmitch,

    It is a common enough thing for politicians here to organize social betterment activities like holding a litter pick, running a bake sale or helping to collect money for charities etc. According to our IQ-challenged friends above, removing flags should fall into the same category. But of course they’re not really making a serious argument, they’re just trying to engage in point scoring – which would be fair enough if they were any good at it.

    I’ve no idea what Charles is on about half the time.

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  42. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    CS

    “Because Alliance members aren’t a vigilante group”

    Now that is classic “incoherence of your waffly”

    The sdlp do put themselves in difficult situations in order to live up to their political statements. You will not find anyone claiming that they are a ” vigilante group”.

    Alban Maginness will go out and face the difficult issues on the street. Hell I have even seen Joe Byrne address issues on the street.

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  43. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    McS

    What I am saying is perfectly clear. Law enforcement is the responsibility of the police and the courts. To argue otherwise is stupid and tantamount to advocating vigilantism. Clear enough for you ?

    The sdlp do put themselves in difficult situations in order to live up to their political statements.

    What difficult situations ?

    What political statements ?

    You will not find anyone claiming that they are a ” vigilante group”.

    Probably because they never put themselves in real danger, which is what taking down flags would entail.

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  44. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin

    “Probably because they (sdlp members) never put themselves in real danger”

    Alban Maginness took part in 1972 at the civil rights march in which British troops killed 14 unarmed civilians. 2013 he was on the streets doing his job during the trouble in North Belfast.

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