Former NI21 member to stand as independent

Gary Grattan.
Gary Grattan.

Former NI21 member Gary Grattan has announced he is to stand as an independent candidate in the upcoming local government election.

Mr Grattan will be contesting the Threemilewater DEA in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council on May 2.

Five years ago he stood in the same area for the short-lived NI21, securing a first preference vote of 369.

Speaking to the Times on his decision to contest this year’s election, he said: “For a long time after the last local government election in 2014, I felt utterly disillusioned. I passionately believed in what NI21 had set out to achieve - to give the electorate the opportunity to vote for a moderate, liberal and forward-thinking unionist party.

“Due to the fallout from NI21, it was a tough decision for me to decide to stand again this time round, but over the last couple of years I have felt a growing sense of injustice at how Northern Ireland was being governed - or not actually governed.”

Detailing some of the issues he is passionate about, Gary, who is a self-employed video-journalist added: “I am very concerned about the adverse affect of welfare reforms, particularly with Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

“Where local councils do have considerable powers is when it comes to planning issues. I’ll endeavour to carefully scrutinise applications to ensure the rules and legislation are being strictly adhered to - and also to ensure they have a minimal detrimental impact on the environment.”

Gary continued: “I also want to help highlight important issues which affect young people and to give them a greater voice in council policies and programmes.

“Thankfully, the stigma around mental health and well-being is slowly being eroded - but much more still needs to be done. The increase in suicides among young people - particularly males - is alarming. I’ll endeavour to do all I can to ensure this issue is given as much prominence and support as possible.

“Having a disabled sister, issues affecting disabled people and people with learning difficulties have always been very close to my heart. I’ll be doing all I can to ensure their rights are protected and issues affecting them are highlighted.

“Of course I’ll do all I can to support local job creation initiatives, to work towards abolishing zero hours contracts and to tackle ageism in the workplace.

“Support for the arts is another area I have always been passionate about. I played guitar in local rock and pop bands for many years and am committed to promoting the arts as a vital part of our social framework and to fight against future cuts in local government budgets.”