5000 Voices: We went to Lagan Valley to hear your biggest issues ahead of the election

With just three weeks to go until the UK General Election, we are visiting every constituency across Northern Ireland to give our readers the chance to have their say on the issues that matter to them.

The first stop on our tour as part of the UK-wide 5000 Voices project was Lagan Valley where the DUP's Jonathan Buckley is hoping to retain his party's seat against stiff competition from the Alliance Party's Sorcha Eastwood.

Spending the day in the constituency, we asked shoppers on Bow Street what the biggest issues were for them going into the election.

Read more: Full list of candidates running in Lagan Valley in General Election 2024

Read more: Register to vote - key closing dates for Northern Ireland

It was no surprise that the health service, education and housing were issues which came up multiple times.

One shopper told us: "Everybody is worried about the NHS and how we are going to move forward because everything just seems to be getting worse. Education as well is a big thing. Special needs children just seem to be totally neglected and there is no hope for them really. Everybody seems to be struggling to get places for school, to get extra support for schools."

Another voter told us that the government should legalise marijuana to increase tax revenues.

"There is the possibility of legalising marijuana. We need taxes, the potholes are like craters now. We need to venture down different avenues where there is a lot of taxes and a lot of other governments are making a lot of money out of it."

For others, it was the cost of living and housing which were major influences in how they would vote.

"There seem to be less and less houses each year. I am on a list at the moment to hear about a house and I have been told anywhere from two years to four years," another person told us.

When it came to their thoughts on the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, the majority of people we spoke to thought that he was out of touch with people.

"He is just like every other Tory politician. He is married to the daughter of the richest man in India. So, something tells me he doesn't have our best interests at heart," one man said.

Another woman said: "I don't think he has done what he has promised to do for people and that is it really in a nutshell."

However, one man was more sympathetic, saying: "He has had a hard time from he came in but I think he has done a reasonable job. It is a terrible job that he is in and has had a good enough go at it. What is coming behind is even worse."

When it came to Labour leader Keir Starmer, voters in Lagan Valley also had mixed opinions but some were optimistic that a Labour government would bring much-needed change.

"I wouldn't be a fan of Keir Starmer. I think they all try to get one up on the other instead of thinking what do people really want. They're fighting like children in the school playground" one woman said.

"They all just eat from the same trough. So, I don't think any of them have our best interests at heart. They can talk about gender this and gender that and argue until they are blue in the face but it doesn't put food on the tables or pay peoples electric or gas bills" a man added.

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