For the second interview in our “Young People in Politics” series, our reporter Tori Watson ventured up to the mighty house on the hill, better known as Stormont, where she interviewed 24 year old DUP Lisburn and Castlereagh Councillor, Luke Poots.
It would almost be fair to say that it was in Luke Poot’s genes to become involved in politics, as he is now the third generation of his family to be involved in the DUP. His grandfather was a co-founding member of the DUP with Dr Ian Paisley, and his father is the current DUP Minister for Health, Edwin Poots. Luke said that “it really all started for me in the vote NO campaign in 1998 against the Belfast Agreement, where I’d have been out manning the speakers in my dad’s jeep. And that’s where it really started for me, putting leaflets through doors and from then on, I’ve helped out in every election ever since.”
When it comes to his greatest political inspiration, Luke asserted the well known name of Doctor Ian Paisley. He said that “it wasn’t (Dr Paisley’s) skills that you maybe saw in the media, which were either going to turn you off or turn you on,” that made him an inspiration in Luke’s eyes, but rather “it was when you met him in real life, and he had a bit of craic with you, or he had a joke, and always had time for you.” Luke also asserted that he felt Dr Paisley handled the perceived conflict of interest between being a minister in the church, and being a politician, “extremely well”.
Tori asked Luke if he would encourage other young people, like himself, to become involved in politics, to which he replied “it’s something that young people need to engage in, it’s what their futures are going to be based on, future jobs, future skills, and the future education of their children as well.” He went on to state that young people “can’t really complain about things, if they don’t get involved, and if they don’t vote and have their say…we need to be hearing from young people.”
With a significant chunk of the electorate, namely young people, not turning out to vote, Tori asked Luke why he believed young people have an increased sense of apathy towards politics. In Luke’s view young people are “associated more with the media than on a door to door talking basis” , which means that they are more likely to “be going onto social media, or they’ll be watching TV, and they’ll only see the coverage of what happens, which is usually bad . They’ll not see the good work which is done on a day to day basis.”
Taking into consideration the key role which social media plays in young peoples daily lives, Tori asked whether Luke had used social media outlets as a way through which to increase engagement within young people. Luke explained that he has a Facebook page, which he uses specifically for politics, and a private Facebook account, which he uses to contact friends and family. In his opinion, “it’s important to have a personal life, because if you don’t have a personal life, then there’s not much point in being involved in politics really. Especially if you don’t have people skills and some form of pastoral care”.
As for his future political career, Luke said, “I don’t know whether I’ll run in 2016 for the Assembly, or if I’ll ever run for the Assembly. I don’t know if I’ll ever run for anything other than council. All I know is that I’ll continue to do my constituency work and continue to help people.”
In the remainder of his time as a councillor Luke would like to concentrate on providing working class young people with greater educational opportunities, and ensuring “that people are able to have an affordable home that they can live in for their children, or for elderly people”. He went on to say, “I believe that people should have the job opportunities and the finances to be able to go to the bank and have a mortgage, and have a decent way of life. It’s important that everyone has that, and that’s really my focus.”
The population of Northern Ireland is ever more diversifying, hence Tori asked whether Luke believes that people are justified when they claim that the DUP’s policies on issues such as Gay Marriage and Blood Donations are ‘dinosaur in their nature’. Luke said that he would refute those types of claims, stating that “calling someone a dinosaur today…that’s just someone’s excuse of fobbing us (DUP) off.” Luke said that the DUP are “certainly the only party that’s appealing to young catholics and to young protestants, because anyone that’s involved in their local parish church, their local chapel – our party’s policies are going to suit them.”
During the last election period, Luke detailed how the DUP stood “the largest amount of young people” as candidates, and how the electorate “seem to want to vote for younger blood”. In his opinion, the DUP Youth Wing offers young people the best chance of becoming involved in politics as it “encourages young people to get involved in politics, whereas some other parties give their young people a youth wing…and to me it’s like a play act…it’s like play role politicians…they do things in their certain groups, but they are never going to be elected councillor, as their party is not giving them a chance.”
To hear Tori’s interview with Luke Poots in full, follow us on Audioboo.
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