SDLP newcomer Gareth Sharvin is standing for the Downpatrick area in the Down District Council election on 5th May. He is single, and is joining a new band of university educated graduates trying to enter into grass roots politics for the first time, Gareth is looking forward to the task of trying to secure the SDLP a fifth seat in his area.
Almost completing his B.Sc degree at Queen’s University in Computing and Information Technology, he has already been busy assisting on South Down MP Margaret Ritchie’s website and has in his short time gained much experience while working in the NI Civil Service in a statistics based IT programme related to training staff and was chairman of the web development group for this project. And prior to that, Gareth even spent two weeks on work experience with the Down Democrat newspaper a number of years ago gaining a considerable media insight.
Gareth said, “The IT and Internet sector is the fastest growing sector in Northern Ireland, and the SDLP would like to see this enhanced by supporting companies which we believe can create 500 jobs over the next three years. Coupled with this idea is the SDLP’s aim to reduce corporation tax which will give the economy an impetus and help boost jobs creation.
“I am just finishing off my degree and understand the many difficulties students today face such as tuition fees, the EMA scheme, and general issues, including the prospect of having no job when they graduate.”
Gareth’s origins in politics were in joining the SDLP Youth and shadowing education matters through the Education Commitee at Stormont. He later became involved in the documentation of the Shared Futures Report.
But Gareth has also experienced the coal face of politics and has joined Margaret Ritchie on the political trail out canvassing in the local area during the South Down election.
He said, “I learned from that that people don’t often ask for help when they need it. Our door is always open if anyone needs assistance on an issue. Some people I have met said they don’t vote because politicians do nothing for them, but the answer to that is simply, have they ever came to us and asked for help? Invariably the answer is ‘no’. There are a lot more elederly people too who are quite independent, and basically we are there to assist with the whole community.”
When Down News asked him why he chose the SDLP as a party, he gave a quick smile, and said that he had completed the Belfast Telegraph quiz, Are You Voting For The Right Party? He added, “I was reassured by the result. My score was way ahead for the SDLP. I have certainly gone over all the party’s policies etc and I am comfortable with all of that. I’ve made the right choice. And I hope the voters onMay 5th also make the right choice.”
Challenging Issues Ahead
There are quite a number of issues that Gareth thought were significant for the local election. He said, “We are totally opposed to water charges.
“On education, we believe that the 11+ should be abolished but the education system is in a bit of a chaos at the moment… I think there needs to be a whole lot more consultation going on. I just don’t agree with selection at a young age. The Executive needs to build a proper strategy to move forward on this.
“We need to support our small rural towns across the district. And we need to encourage better environmental planning in places such as Ballykinlar and across the Down District Council area. Some communities do not have children’s play parks, again Ballykinlar falls into this category.
“Across the Downpatrick electoral area, there are many young families and they too experience various pressures, and they also need support.
“Many small businesses too are faced with increasing rates and costs and a low or depressed revenue stream. More needs to be done to help out here. Workers too are facing increased fuel costs in travelling to their jobs in Belfast and elsewhere, and we need more local jobs created in the area to offset this.
“But certainly one of the key issues in this area we are faced with is the retention of A&E services at the Downe Hospital. The SDLP is committed to seeing these consultant-led services re-instated 24-hours a day along with a satisfactory mental health service and provision for the disabled.
‘There is much to be done in the new Council soon to be elected. It will have a challenging future term, and it important that the electorate select the candidates with the right mix of skills, experience and knowledge that they can fulfill this heavy demand.”
Things You May Want To Know About Gareth Sharvin
* his family are involved in building and agriculture
* he is a member of Downpatrick Golf Club (14 handicapper)
* he is a member of Downpatrick Race Club
* he keeps fit in the gym
* he is a keen reader
* he lives in Downpatrick
* wants to see young people find jobs in Northern Ireland, not in Australia and America.