Last Friday I interviewed the East Belfast Alliance MLA, Chris Lyttle. Below are some excerpts of the interview but I would recommend listening to the entire thing as it is only 16 minutes long.
On Naomi Long retaining East Belfast at the next election
I think we have as always worked extremely hard in the community in East Belfast. We have shown leadership on some of the key issues, taken a stand on what we believe is best for local people across East Belfast and we’ll go back with a positive message when the next elections come around.
On the flag vote in Belfast City Council
The policy that we stood for in the council at that vote is a policy that the Alliance party had held for a long time…I think if anything the situation was made obviously in my opinion difficult by the distribution of approximately 40,000 leaflets across Belfast. Leaflets that in my opinion, used inflammatory and, also, singularly targeted Naomi Long, who was not a councillor at that time. And some of the explanations we have heard as to why that leaflet went out and the content of that leaflet don’t stack up in my opinion…I think there was a complete lack of leadership shown from some parties and some elected representatives that contributed to the intense difficulty and public unrest that followed.
On the nationalist parties
I recognise that there is at least a perceived fear amongst people in the community that Sinn Fein supported by the SDLP on occasion have a very clear agenda. Some people have referred to it as a cultural war, I think that is very inflammatory and unhelpful comment to use but I will agree that Sinn Fein and the SDLP need challenged on exactly what a shared future and reconciliation to look like.
On the possibility of an electoral backlash
We work in communities on a regular basis, we get out there to see what local issues we could be working on and we continue to receive support while we are doing that. We received a significant amount of membership applications further to the vote at Belfast City Hall from people who supported the difficult stance that we took to stand up for the principles of the Good Friday Agreement and for a shared future. It remains to be seen at election time exactly where the votes go further to that.
On the new peace wall around Short Strand
I think it’s deeply disappointing that there is a need for albeit a temporary time bound security fence at the Short Strand interface but we need to think about why it’s there. There’s a reasonable small minority of people who resort to riotous behaviour on occasion. They are the people who are putting the vast majority of people who are involved in cross-community work in that area and who want to live in peace; under threat…I think we also need to look to how seriously the Office of First and Deputy First Minister are taking their responsibility to deliver a community relations shared future strategy.
I have yet to see any significant policy that seems to be significantly different from the Alliance party.
On the BBC Spotlight programme on the UVF
I think unfortunately there does appear to be a small minority of people who are holding the vast majority of people in East Belfast to ransom with some of their actions. We unfortunately have seen some extreme murals in recent weeks. We have seen some concerning paramilitary style attacks and I think the vast majority of people in East Belfast wholly reject this type of behaviour.
Full interview available here
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs