The campaigner Emma DeSouza is to stand as an Independent candidate in the North’s Assembly elections in May.
Ms DeSouza, who lives in Co Fermanagh, will run in the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone. It is currently represented by three Sinn Féin Assembly members, one DUP member and one UUP member.
Announcing her candidacy to The Irish Times on Friday morning, Ms DeSouza said she believed the forthcoming election “has the potential to significantly disrupt the status quo of Northern politics”.
“Key to that change will be independent voices unafraid to join the growing demographic of ‘others’ not content being shuffled into outdated political movements with partisan ideals,” she said.
Ms DeSouza said the collapse of the Northern Executive following the resignation of the DUP’s Paul Givan as first minister and its consequences for Stormont’s budget and other issues had left people “very frustrated”, and the election would be “a very significant moment for independent voices because people will be looking for an alternative”.
“I think this is an opportune moment for a new type of politics in Northern Ireland. ”
Ms DeSouza is currently women in leadership co-ordinator at the National Women’s Council of Ireland and vice-chair and Northern Ireland spokeswoman at votingrights.ie, which campaigns for the voting rights of Irish emigrants.
In 2020 she forced the UK government to change its law and recognise all Irish and British citizens born in Northern Ireland as EU citizens for immigration purposes.
It followed a landmark court case which she fought on the basis of the citizenship provisions in the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which affirms the right of people from Northern Ireland to be British or Irish or both.
She took the case after her application for a residence card for her US-born husband Jake was rejected by the British Home Office on the basis that she was a British citizen because she was born in Northern Ireland, even though she has only ever held an Irish passport.
Ms DeSouza said she was part of a “new wave of politically motivated young people” who wanted an alternative to traditional orange and green politics in Northern Ireland.
“Far too many people have been made to feel increasingly disenfranchised and disillusioned by the political point-scoring and instability inherent in Northern Ireland’s legacy approach to politics,” she said.
“I want to put forward a positive message to the electorate that politics can work, that their vote does matter, and that key to the kind of real change that this region needs is the inclusion of Independent representatives.”
She said that Independent “doesn’t have to mean alone” and she intended to liaise with other Independent candidates to “work collectively toward making a positive case for more Independents in the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
Her name was previously under consideration as one of the Taoiseach’s nominees to the Seanad, but she was not selected.
As a “proud Fermanagh resident”, she said she intended to challenge “rural imbalance and inequalities”.