Northern Irish name checked at Scottish Conference

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Nick Clegg with Scottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie

Nick Clegg with Scottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie

Nick Clegg in his speech to the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference this weekend mentioned the Northern Irish.

The people of the United Kingdom have a rich shared heritage. We share a culture, a history and an identity. We live side by side in towns and cities across the British Isles. Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish people are together every day, in offices and factories, school classrooms and playing fields. We have rallied together in hard times. Our forefathers fought together and died together, just as brave Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish service men and women are fighting side by side in faraway lands right now. For centuries we have crossed each others borders, married each other, raised families together. What Scot doesn’t have any English, Welsh or Northern Irish in their family tree? I believe the bonds that bring us together are stronger than the forces that would tear us apart.

I do not recall a leader of any of the other UK wide parties name checking our wee country in such a way in a keynote speech to conference. No doubt this is in part due to the presence that the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats have had in recent years of shaping the Liberal Democrat narrative, making our voice heard to the leadership and Ministers in Government and standing up for liberal values in Northern Ireland even though we do not contest election here.

Our course our local party here has also had connections to England, Scotland and Wales with members having strong connections familial and otherwise. But all of us continue to stand up for the principles in which we believe.

Andrew Reeves – Gone too soon

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Cross posted with Stephen’s Liberal Journal

I woke up this morning to hear the tragic news that the man who changed the course of my life 7 months ago had tragically passed away.

It was Andrew Reeves, the Director of Campaigns for the Scottish Lib Dems, who when asked did he know of any good campaigners who could front up the Yes! to Fairer Votes campaign in Northern Ireland immediately thought of me and told me to apply. Of course in the four all too short years that I have really gotten to know Andrew much of that time was spent on the campaign trail, it was his job after all and my passion (until recent months when thanks to him it became my job too). It started in Glasgow East, when I myself was just returning to full campaign mode. Yet somehow I still managed a day of tenement mountaineering without any adverse health issues. That was the campaign that Stephen was back.

There followed Glenrothes, Glasgow NE, the European Election and last years General Election of course. The late night strategy meetings in Glenrothes always happened around the dart board. I was sometimes there waiting for Caron to give me a lift back, aware that the achieving a score wasn’t always as important as throwing the dart as hard as possible in the general direction of the board.

Andrew had set up his blog as Andrew’s Running Blog before he had come to Scotland. The aim was to get him into shape to run the Great North Run. Health was an issue that Andrew would visit time and again on his blog. Having lost his mother 6 weeks after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009, he chose her Birthday this year to be the day that he got married to his long time partner Roger.

Family

But his own health was also something he fought hard for. He knew that having a sedentary life wasn’t helpful to him, so when he could he would get to the gym, walk (preferably with a bundle of leaflets in this hands). It was his approach that even though he was leading the campaign he still needed to get out and walk to keep some motion going that led me to due just the same at least once a week during the Yes! campaign. I even was on a conference call once while out and about delivering off the Falls Road in the rain.

For a while there were just three regular prominent Scottish Lib Dem bloggers, him, Caron and I. We could on occasion all take the same story and tell it in a different way that was our styles. We also could each get away with saying things in certain way because of our positions in the party and occasionally one of us knew that one of the other two was the better person to put something out there, so the idea was spread. Many of the rest of the Scottish blogosphere knew that while there only the three of us that didn’t lead to a lack of quality or quantity. Yesterday he was on about the E.Coli in Spanish and German cucumbers in a typical Andrewesque way. It seems strange to think that I will never again read a new blog post from him again.

My frequent visits into Scottish Headquarters at Clifton Terrace in recent years were always greeted with some sort of put down from Mr Reeves. For years before I was actually selected again for Linithgow and East Falkirk he would refer to me as the Potential Prospect Parliamentary Candidate PPPC rather than PPC for the seat. The case being that if Gordon Brown were to suddenly want to secure a mandate I would be willing to stand again for the seat. I was one less seat for them to worry about in a hurry. While of course he wouldn’t always have a smile on his face, he did sometimes have to be serious after all, there was always a sense that he would or could crack a joke to lighten the mood at any point.

Andrew was only a little over a year older than me, taken at the tragically young age of 43. The last words he said to me as I was leaving Scottish Conference in March were, “Go back there and win this thing, then we can talk about it next time your over.” sadly that chat will not be taking place. He was man with an immense heart for the party, for campaigning, for those he knew. Sadly this morning that heart gave way.

My thoughts are with Roger, who had to work in the recent days off that Andrew had been enjoying, therefore missing too many of what were unknown to be some of the last quality hours for his husband. Also to all the team in Clifton Terrace who have lost someone who’s motivation and passion will be hard to replace. To all my colleagues, friends and fellow campaigners, not just in Scotland but everywhere who were touched by this man that so many of us today know we have lost a dear friend.

Andrew with Katy Gordon and me out campaigning in 2009

Liberal Youth Northern Ireland

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Stephen McFarland

Stephen McFarland

 

While Michael and I were over at Scottish Conference at the weekend one of our student members Stephen McFarland, a student at Aberdeen Univeristy, asked if he could set up a Liberal Youth Northern Ireland page on Facebook. Both of us being old hands in the youth wing of our party of course jumped with glee at such a suggestion coming from the Youth members themselves.

You can visit and like the page Stephen has set up here.

Liberal Youth NI at present has no executive structure, but is a proposed youth wing of the local party of Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland.

The primary aim is to represent the policies of Liberalism and Liberal Democracy to those between the ages of 16 and 25 in Northern Ireland. Encouraging political involvement in a part of the United Kingdom were the Liberal Democrats do not presently contest elections.

At present Liberal Youth Northern Ireland is not an affiliated member of Liberal Youth! But out of little acorns great oaks can grow.

If you are a young person living in Northern Ireland and want to get involved, click on the join us tab above. The youth joining fee is £6 which works out at 50p  or half the price of a ‘broadsheet’ daily newspaper a month. If you are a student in any of the Northern Ireland Universities or Regional Colleges and interested in setting up a Liberal Youth Branch there contact us by email and we’ll be delighted to get in touch with you about how to do so.