The Ulster Unionist Party candidate running for the West Belfast parliamentary seat says young people from Andersonstown are joining the party.

Bill Manwaring said it is not just in unionist areas where the party is attracting new members but in nationalist areas too.

Speaking to Daily Belfast, the Shankill man said the party is finding a support base in some surprising areas.

“We are opening the eyes of many young people here to politics,” he said. “We’ve been helping people with housing issues, benefit issues and making a good impact on the ground.

“Young people from Andersonstown have joined the party. They see beyond issues like the constitutional question and care about issues such as housing, health and education.”

Setting out his stall ahead of May 7, the candidate said he has spent the past five years building a profile in the West of the city and working for the whole community.

The election hopeful said he will canvass as much of West Belfast as he can in the lead up to election day and that on the dooresteps the same issues keep coming up, regardless of what side of the peace line he’s on.

“It doesn’t matter where you are from in West Belfast, you are dealing with the same issues. I’ve done a lot of work with New Life City Church and people from both communities come along together and discover they share the same interests and have the same issues.

“People care about health, about housing. I have a two and a half year old with spina bifida and we have had amazing help through our heath system. It is one of the best in the world. This is what people talk about and care about on the doors.”

He said although he does not expect to win the seat from incumbent Paul Maskey, he is offering voters an alternative voice and viewpoint.

“I was canvassing in 2010 in Andersonstown with David Trimble and people were thanking him for the work he has done,” he said.

“Let’s start with the core issue of unionism versus nationalism. Unionism is the best place for Northern Ireland financially. For me it is a no-brainer that being part of the union is better. But I am a democrat, if there was a referendum tomorrow and the people voted for a united Ireland I wouldn’t throw my toys out of the pram.

“But to people in West Belfast our future is more than this. West Belfast is an area that has been allowed to fall into disrepair and neglect, we should be building the hope and aspirations of our young people and giving people the chance to live the life they want.”