Kerr's Corner

Kerr's Corner is a regular feature in East Antrim and Newtownabbey editions of The Wizard. David Kerr would like to hear your memories of life in your own area. Maybe you'll trigger some thoughts for a future column. kerrscorner@ulsteronline.org.uk

Saturday, February 18, 2006

WWF-Northern Ireland guide to lobbying your local politicians

DO THE ‘write’ thing for the environment. Buying organic produce, recycling paper, plastic and glass, switching to a ‘green’ electricity tariff … everyone has their own way of protecting the environment but have you ever wondered if there was something more you could do?

Well, the most effective way of making a positive change is to have legislation that protects the environment introduced – a daunting task if you aren’t involved in the political process. So rather than getting elected every time you want to make a change, lobbying your local politician is a quicker and easier way to influence the decision makers.

Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLA’s), Members of Parliament (MP’s) and Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) are the public’s voice in the political arena. You voted for them so they have a responsibility to address any suggestions, issues or concerns that you may have – that is what they are paid for!

By contacting one of these political representatives about an environmental issue, you will convey a powerful message. For every person who highlights an issue, politicians will know that there are many more who share similar views but just haven’t had time to communicate them.

When campaigns are launched by WWF, we always ask our supporters and members to help us communicate important messages to parliament or the assembly. By simply writing a letter you can make a valuable contribution to WWF’s conservation work. What do I need to write? Always identify yourself as a constituent and/or supporter of WWF.

Keep your letter as clear and brief as possible – ideally it should be no longer than one side A4. Do not expect your MLA/MP/MEP to know all about the subject. Always explain it as clearly as possible, and avoid jargon and scientific terms. Say why you are writing – is it a specific concern or a wider issue?

Suggest a course of action for your MLA/MP/MEP to take, giving your reasons. Be positive! A letter proposing a positive course of action is much more likely to be successful than a letter written in a negative manner. Enclose any relevant newspaper articles and give examples where possible to strengthen your case.

If possible, send a typed letter rather than a hand-written one – typed letters look neater and professional. Remember it is better to write individual, personalised letters rather than joint ones.

The more letters that an MLA/MP/MEP receives on a particular subject, the more notice he or she will take.

Make sure you know exactly what you want your MLA to support or object to. (If you are unsure of anything it is best to find out the facts first rather than send out mixed messages. WWF can provide you with fact sheets and information on important environmental issues).

Keep a copy of your letter. (If you are campaigning on behalf of WWF please send us a copy of your letter as well as your MLA’s/MP’s/MEP’s response. We can use this information to support our campaigns and persuade the government to take action.

You can find out who your MLA is by contacting the Northern Ireland Assembly on (028) 9052 1333 or by checking the Northern Ireland Assembly website.

Then send your letter to: (Name of your MLA) Northern Ireland Assembly, Parliament Buildings, Belfast, BT4 3XX.

All Northern Ireland MPs can be contacted at the House of Commons, London, SW1 0AA. If you are unsure who your MP is ring the House of Commons enquiry line on (020) 7219 4272 and give them your postcode. You can also find your local MPs details on the House of Commons website.

For names and addresses of Northern Ireland MEP’s contact the UK Office of the European Parliament on (020) 7227 4300 or visit the European Parliament website.

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