Last in my series of interviews from the Green Party conference is the party’s European candidate, Ross Brown.
I began by asking him about his ability to raise the £5,000 pounds necessary to run in these elections, but he assured me that the party along with his online drive to raise funds will allow his participation in the upcoming votes. Brown told me that he believes there should be some sort of public funding for political parties in order to support fair and representative democracy. Brown is concerned about the level of corporate donations that some of our political parties receive as he believes this is influencing the outcome of elections.
I pressed him on his view of other parties support for Fracking. There is, Brown believes, signs that Sinn Fein are coming round to opposing fracking which he believes should be welcomed. But, the attempts to push through the Planning Bill with the DUP, would he argues reduce important regulations that are in place.
We then moved onto the expansion of Belfast City Airport which is a huge issue in East Belfast. Unsurprisingly, Brown is opposed to any expansion as he believes that it is absurd that a city of our size has two airports and that not enough is being done to make the International Airport more attractive for passengers and airlines to use. He suggests that extending the railway line to the airport would help in making it much more viable. But, when I pressed him about closing down Aldergrove and basing all airport activity out of the City Airport-he still remains opposed to further expansion as he believes there is still no economic case for it.
So, what about his view of the European Union?
My general view is that Europe is going in the wrong direction. Who is in charge of Europe that is ultimately what we have to ask ourselves, we have a European Parliament which is a parliament of the right wing and we have a Commission which is appointed by governments who the majority of which are right wing governments. Certainly we do not agree with the direction that Europe is taking, its lost the social side to it, we have seen austerity imposed in Europe, it’s not how we envisage Europe, we want to see for example social standards that everyone ought to be entitled to.
With all that in mind, I asked him would it just not be better to follow UKIP and advocated withdrawal. Brown argued that no matter what we do in this regard we will be exposed to international pressures; he believes that it is better to work from within the EU to gain democratic and economic reforms than to leaves ourselves isolated on the outside.
As we approached the end of the interview I sensed Brown really comes into his own in terms of what he believes. He told me about the issues he believes in and in a sense of near despair argued that real issues such as nuclear proliferation are not getting fair hearing as he told me ‘what does a flag in Northern Ireland have to do about that?’
We have to start addressing the issues. Political parties need to start saying what do we stand for, what is our European platform and sell it to the voters and get away from this flag waving nationalism.
Overall, I found Brown interesting; he comes across as sincere and has a real passion for the issues that he believes in. Unlike Agnew in 2009, he is running in a much more crowded field and it will be difficult for him to get airtime, he will have to learn to shout louder than most if his ideas are to gain traction with the voters.
Note-will get audio up later.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs