My name is Stephen and I'm a recovering apathetic

For most of my life I couldn't really care less about politics:
'Nothing ever changes...' 
'Don't vote for them, it only encourages them...' 
'The desire to become a politician should ban you from ever becoming one...' 
These quotes pretty much summed up my attitude, an attitude borne out of being a child of the 70s, being brought up in Belfast during the trouble. What had politicians ever done for me other than shout "No" or speak through the voice of an actor. I was fully aware of the troubles and like many was caught up in or close to a number of instances, never injured but close enough to realise this wasn't just a wee skirmish, this shit was real and it affected some of those closest to me greatly.

But that was life and we just mozzied on, we had never known anything different. My family had spared me the prejudices of our wee part of the world, despite the troubles having a direct affect on us. Everyone was equal, not everyone was a terrorist, not every Catholic was an IRA supporter, not every Protestant hung on Big Ian's every word.

I developed friendships from all arts and parts, we never talked politics, that was a dirty word, we just shared life instead. We were developing our own wee world, based on whether we got on or not, we had shared values but not shared religious beliefs, we came from different backgrounds and different classes apparently, we hadn't noticed. This was all a fair distance from the contrived 'usuns and themuns' we saw growing up.

In 1998 I got the opportunity to study abroad and while I was away good stuff was happening back home. The Good Friday Agreement had been signed and only found out by phone. I was delighted and excited. I love Northern Ireland and had spent all year in the States defending it, and had surprised myself at how passionately I did. I even came home early to vote ‘Yes, ‘the first time I had ever exercised my right to vote. There was hope, there was agreement, maybe not as much as we thought at the time, but there was some.

And that was it, that was my last real interest in politics apart from casting the odd vote for a non-traditional party to appease my conscience. I was mozzying along again, worrying about tangible things like getting a job, friendships, relationships, beer. Belfast was changing at pace, new vistas, new opportunities, new types of foreign beer, no recession. All was good.

I bounce forward a few years to October 2013. I am a husband and a Dad, I see the world very differently, I'm not mozzying along, I want what's best for my kids, that's what matters to me, and when I see the same old faces from my childhood standing in government stirring up the same old prejudices, unable to call something wrong when it is wrong, I get angry, angry because my kids deserve better.

We have come a long way, we are still in process, but the promised land is still far off and I am afraid that we have many in Stormont who are leading us through the wilderness, but will take us to the promised land, that elusive shared future because they don't believe in it. I do and for that reason I care about what happens in Northern Ireland, I care about the decisions made in Stormont, and I care that many up there don't seem to be interested in the greater good, but merely their version of it.

That is why at 38 I am now reluctantly politicised. I am afraid that some of the myopic dinosaurs in power will blow this chance by keeping us at standstill, and a standstill in NI means we are in reverse. We need new blood, new ideas and new vistas...enough of the same old themuns and usuns.

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