A MAN convicted of setting fire to a house in the 1980s has been explaining why he has decided to stand for Rushen in next month's House of Keys by-election.

Phil Gawne, 38, of Cregneash, will contest the seat when Rushen goes to the polls on May 15.

The Rushen Commissioner believes it's important constituents know about his involvement in a nationalist campaign which led to him being jailed for 16 months for arson in 1988 and serving eight months.

Mr Gawne said: 'I understand that, to some people, the fact I went to prison 15 years ago for arson will be of concern in deciding my suitability as a candidate.

'However, I hope that in explaining my position, people will at least have enough information to make an informed judgement.'

The Rushen Commissioner explained the campaign 'arose from a feeling politicians were more influenced by business interests than the interests of their own people'.

He said: 'The most significant issue appeared to be the lack of affordable housing and concern about the undue influence of the finance sector.

'The industry also appeared to have undue influence on government policy and decision making.

'Finding affordable housing was a great problem and the apparent failure of the political system to address these issues regrettably led to my course of action.

'The campaign ended with an arson attack on an uncompleted luxury home in Tromode that led to the imprisonment of me for eight months, along with two others.'

Since then, has been a major influence in promoting the Manx language. He is Manx language development officer for the Manx Heritage Foundation.

'It's essential we engage with young people and ensure the political system addresses their needs. They must feel positively engaged in the political process,' he said.

'People need to see that politics can work if voter apathy is to be overcome.

'I firmly believe a diverse and well-regulated finance sector is essential for the economic success of our Island. I believe that the financial sector now works in partnership with government and is well regulated.

'When necessary, government must be ready to act quickly to facilitate the development of new markets. '

Mr Gawne continued: 'Great steps forward have been made in trying to address some of the issues in affordable housing and these and other aspects of housing policies will be covered in my manifesto.

'All my adult life I have been driven by a desire to shape the future of the Isle of Man so attempting to enter national politics is a natural progression for me.'

Read the full interview in today's Isle of Man Examiner.

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