SDLP’s Westminster candidate says he wants to end community division

SDLP's Malachy Quinn
SDLP's Malachy Quinn

Inspired to enter politics after watching a documentary on John Hume while in Norway, the SDLP’s Westminster candidate is confident he can win.

The soon to be 28-year-old Coalisland man, with a Masters in Politics, has been involved with the party for ten years.

And far from towing usual sectarian lines, he said if he’s lucky enough to become Mid Ulster’s MP, he will stand for everyone in the area, regardless of their religion, past or politics.

And what’s more - he would take a pay cut to do so.

“I think the ‘fat’ people could take a cut - but it’s always the poorest that are hit first,” he explained.

“£69,000 for an MP, is it worth it? No, and I certainly won’t be taking £69,000 if I get elected.

“I didn’t get into politics because I hate Protestants or because I hate unionists. I got into politics because we are one community and we are one people... and everybody deserves to be represented.”

“I will be donating some of that money to charity.”

But first he has to win the election.a

“I think I can win, it’s going to take a lot of votes,” he said. “It’s a challenge yes. It will take the unionist community [having] a bit of faith in me.

“I didn’t get into politics because I hate Protestants or because I hate unionists.

“I got into politics because we are one community and we are one people. We are very diverse, we have so many cultures and so many political beliefs, and everybody deserves to be represented.

“I’m not here just for nationalists... I am here to represent everybody. I don’t care who you are or where you come from.”

Keen to tackle issues like the lack of social housing, bringing more jobs to the area, improving Mid Ulster’s infrastructure and cuts to education, healthcare and public transport - the health care worker said he has no time for divisive issues.

“I don’t want to hear about flags, I don’t want to hear about us and them - in Mid Ulster we are one community,” he said.

“It’s jobs, jobs, jobs. Mid Ulster is suffering badly from a lack of jobs and I want to see more investment.

“Broadband is a massive issue, especially in areas like Ardboe and Derrylaughan. You can’t get a dial-up connection [in some areas] never mind broadband, and that infrastructure is vital.

“That’s the arguments that I am bringing to the table.”

As for dealing with the past, he said he would like to see this done sooner rather than later, but when asked whether Northern Ireland should leave it all behind like South Africa, he did not agree, as the “hurt would still be there”.

“The communities are still as divided as ever - I see the SDLP’s role as trying to end that.

“It’s no longer us against them - it’s all of us together and that’s the future.”

But when asked about whether the way forward was to unite with the UUP and form an opposition, Cllr Quinn said he didn’t think that idea was viable and that to have one voice among twelve was better than no voice at all.

“Is it better be out in the cold, only being a negative voice?” he asked.

“While we are in government we can make our voice heard. That role is very important for us in Stormont.”

And one of the things that he said he would like to tackle in Westminster is the “millionaires that are siphoning funds off to off-shore accounts, so that they don’t have to pay tax on it”.

“Those are the people that we should be going after,” he said.

“Northern Ireland MPs will have an input and that’s why that voice should be used.

“We should going after the cheats, we should be going after the tax avoiders, we should be going after everybody who isn’t paying who should be paying.”

These are the people the Mid Ulster councillor said the government should be going after - not public sector workers, children in education and those who rely on benefits.

But with 20,000 public sector jobs on the line, another 1,500 education staff worried for their futures, the Mail asked where all those people would find other employment.

“We’re cutting away,” Cllr Quinn said. “We’re cutting this, we’re cutting that, we’re cutting wages. People are going out on strike.

“We need a better deal,” he said. “The SDLP never signed up to that.

“We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. We need more money, and we need to streamline the services.”