Belfast South has one of the highest proportion of female candidates running in Northern Ireland. Scoop reporter, Eugene Tinnelly, spoke to Clare Bailey of the Northern Ireland Green Party at the recent QUB School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy hustings.

As the interview was conducted in the grounds of the fine institution which is Queen’s University Belfast, Eugene asked Ms Bailey what she believes to be the main issue for students. Ms Bailey said, “I think that absolutely one issue would be finance and student fees, and the threat that hangs over students about the increase of fees…To me education should be about expanding somebody as an individual and giving them the desire to go out and learn more in the world, and really what we’re seeing is this reduction of education to get a job.  Education for economy. I think that’s absolutely wrong.

Ms Bailey went on to reminisce about her experience of finance when she was a student. However she got a bit confused over whether or not she herself had actually taken out a loan….it turns out that she did get one, but like many of her peers has “never repaid a penny of it to date.”

This year saw the establishment of the Student Poverty Alliance Group (SPAG) at QUBSU, as a response to the growing number of students who are resorting to using food banks. Eugene asked Ms Bailey why she believes this is something which is becoming more prominent within society, and what can be done to change this developing pattern.

Ms Bailey believes that such issues are a result of a “broken economic system”. She said, “we have a system of Neo-Liberal economics that has systematically proved itself to fail…This is the third time in my lifetime that we have been brought to this point, so this is not just a one off. This is going to happen again unless we start to make really radical changes in how we do economics.”

It’s traditionally believed that the electorate in Northern Ireland are more likely to vote along Unionist or Nationalist lines, rather than based on their social and economic views. The Green party would not typically be associated with the cultural divides we see in NI, so how much of an issue does Ms Bailey believe this will be for the party on polling day?

“People are so entrenched and so engrained that [they’re] afraid because you become familiar with something, so the challenge for us in the Greens is really to start giving people the confidence to step outside of that and that’s something I’m really starting to see on the doors”

“We have a juvenile political system here. It’s only been on the go for a very short space of time…so we are very very young and we have a long road to travel. This is only the beginning of the journey. Change will come. I think it will come generationally.”

To hear Eugene’s interview with Ms Bailey in full, click the following link.