Sinn Féin Election Candidate Naomi Bailie For Downpatrick Area Chats About Her Life And Politics
DOWN NEWS caught up with Sinn Féin local council Downpatrick candidate Naomi Bailie as she gears up for a busy spell of electioneering approaching the May Council election. She talks over her life and politics.
What inspired you to become involved in politics?
“Obviously as I progressed through my educational pathway my experiences at home were reflected in my choice of study. Once I’d left St. Mary’s High School in Downpatrick, I moved onto SERC in the town where I completed my A-Levels in history, politics, sociology and art. So even back then I was always drawn in that direction.
“I then moved on to University of Ulster where I completed by Honours degree in Politics and Government and then onto Queens University in 2010 to complete my Master Degree in Irish Politics. But throughout my whole time studying I was also kept grounded by the realities of life and community involvement. I was and still am an active member of my GAA club, at that time playing, and also devoted a lot of time to my family’s business in which I worked and then managed for a period of 12 years.
“The reality of having to get up every morning at 6am to help your parents open the store before heading off for the day at school or college, whilst laborious at the time, has made me into the astute and determined character I am today. I am very driven and very committed to what I believe in… but most of all I am grateful. Grateful to my parents for the experiences in life I have been lucky to have and grateful to my party for choosing me to continue to represent this community. I feel honored to represent Sinn Féin.
What attracted you towards Sinn Féin as opposed to other parties?
“Sinn Fein public representatives take great pride from being able to deliver effectively for the communities from which we come from. Sinn Féin Councillors are an integral part of the wider Sinn Féin team whose work dovetails with our Assembly, Westminster, EU and Dáil teams. Local people in Down can be assured of a strong ‘Team Sinn Féin’ approach to their issues of concern. Representation and the ability to represent the needs of my community is what truly motivates me and what encouraged me to get into politics.
“Growing up I was heavily influenced politically at home. My father is politically minded and was keen that both me and my brothers understood the dynamics of politics here in Ireland, particularly from a republican perspective. I think my father was influenced at that time as a young man starting a family here, having grown up experiencing the worst effects of the ‘Unionist’ state mentality that existed and then witnessing events during the 80’s such as the Hunger Strikes and media censorship of Sinn Féin representatives and republican politics generally.
“So republican ideals were instilled in me from a very early age and I believe that as an adult I am a more rounded individual for that experience; but in terms of community politics, that definitely came from my mum. She is very involved in working for and with the community and growing up I had a strong sense of identification and belonging which I think as I’ve grown older has developed into a real appreciation of community involvement and a sense of reward by simply being able to help others like me.
What is your priority issue moving towards the forthcoming election?
“Without doubt my priority as a newly elected councillor will be to make this district a better one for people to live in, work in and visit.
“The main focus of that work at this stage is in creating local job opportunities for the thousands of people unemployed across Down and rebalancing the distribution of public sector employment opportunities. Sustainable jobs can be created in this area and in doing so will provide our young people with the opportunity to work and to build a future here in Down and in Ireland. We have witnessed far too many of our young people become victims of the systemic brain drain. I have watched family and friends board planes for Canada, Dubai, America and Australia. I want them home where they belong, and the sad reality is that they also want to come home but can’t afford to come home and rely on welfare until jobs become available.
“Sinn Féin is committed to standing up for Ireland. We are passionate about ensuring the needs of local people and communities are met, and providing jobs for people is central to this. Sinn Féin Minister Michelle O’Neill initiated the decentralisation of public sector jobs to Downpatrick through her announcement to relocate DARD fisheries division to the Down Public Sector Hub. I played a key role in lobbying for that work to happen and will continue to call for more jobs to come to Downpatrick.
“The ultimate battle at present is in protecting and enhancing the town’s health care legacy through retention of and addition to the services at the Downe Hospital. I have called publically for the South Eastern HSC Trust to support the establishment of a Regional Addiction Unit at the site, so that we be a key piece of work in the coming months as they move through that consultation process. I want to see the full and immediate restoration of seven days a week, 24-hour accident and emergency cover at the Downe and that fight will continue. By no means is this community a walk over and the Trust’s plans to relocate more services in Belfast and out of Downe will be challenged at every opportunity.
What are this areas main opportunities for growth and future development?
“In Business Development and Tourism, I want to see more support made available to the small and medium-sized business community in Down. I don’t think this area has been well represented over the last period as some of our political reps have fallen asleep at the wheel. I want to see tax breaks and incentives for Small Medium Enterprises and the social economy sector, which specifically has huge growth potential in Down. Sinn Féin have been calling for some time for the establishment of Business Enterprise Zones and Down has the potential to become home to a green energy or fishing and seafood business zone.
“This area is a jewel in Ireland’s crown. Stretching from the majestic Strangford Lough, covering the Mountains of Mourne, all the way up to the Ring of Guillion. We have the potential to make this area a national tourist mecca and I have no doubt that we can and will achieve this. The area is uniquely placed to reap all the benefits of the St. Patrick’s story and can also prosper on angling tourism potential and creative industry tourism. Sinn Féín will ensure that more resources are directed towards cultural tourism and our locally-based tourism product to help create jobs and investment, particularly in disadvantaged communities. Therefore I specifically want to see the area benefit more from the rich 1798 culture and history.
“Sinn Féin aim to direct more resources into the Arts, helping to create jobs in the creative industries and develop upon this areas success stories such as Philomena and The Shore. We will further develop the potential of the All-Ireland Agri-Food sector and ensure the implementation of the Going for Growth strategy potentially creating 15,000 new jobs. It is vital that our local fishing industry is incorporated into this piece of work. I intend to work very closely with the sector to ensure they are able to reap the benefits locally in ports like Ardglass, Kilkeel and Cranfield.
“I am hopeful that the new council structures will allow for more linked-up government and increased opportunities for all our local community and voluntary sector agencies. This includes our local sporting clubs. I will endeavour to work hard to ensure that advice and assistance are readily available with as little red tape as possible to create maximum funding opportunities for their development.
“It is a great please to work along with the local County Down MLA’s Chris Hazzard and Caitriona Ruane, and the Sinn Féin South Down Councillors and all the staff and volunteers in our several advice offices. They are a great team.”