By Carlena Knight
Despite facing much scrutiny – including from his own family – radio boss-turned political hopeful Sean Bird says he remains unaffected and focused on the task at hand.
The general manager of ZDK Liberty Radio was announced as the United Progressive Party’s candidate for the St John’s Rural East constituency following Thursday evening’s successful primary against contender, Vere Cornelius.
Bird defeated the former Democratic National Alliance (DNA) candidate by 21 votes, after 41 ballots were cast – 31 in favour of Bird and 10 for Cornelius.
This means Bird will likely contest his kin, current Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) minister, Maria Bird-Browne, in the next elections.
“I believe the political leader of the party, Harold Lovell, is the doorway for the change needed in Antigua and Barbuda and his conversations and ideas line up with mine so for me personally growing up around politics, if you are going to get into something and then back out, then it makes no sense,” Bird told Observer.
“No, no, no, I could never do that to the wonderful people that welcomed me with open arms. Tarl that would be too ungrateful man, that’s not in my DNA.”
Bird went on to say that – as the UPP representative for St John’s Rural East – the responsibility is on him to assess the needs of the constituency and offer solutions where possible.
It is the first time that a Bird will run for the main opposition party and, due to his family’s political legacy with Bird being the grandson of the country’s first Prime Minister, Sir Vere Cornwall Bird, and nephew of the emeritus leader, Sir Lester Bird, it was no surprise that the announcement would be contentious.
In fact, his cousin, Donyelle Bird, daughter of Sir Lester, expressed her disappointment in a social media post in which she termed the move a “betrayal”.
“If Sean really cared about family loyalty and had respect for the legacy of Labour that our grandfather, a very proud Antiguan and Barbuan fought for and gifted to us as a nation, then this choice to join the UPP would not have ever been entertained, much less pursued.
“It goes everything that grandad and my father worked for – and breaks my heart,” she proclaimed.
Donyelle Bird continued, “This public sacrifice of sorts on the alter of partisanship in exchange for validation of his petty revenge for not being handed the constituency on a silver platter with no work done or dues paid is unconscionable and speaks to insurmountable levels of ingratitude and self-centeredness.
“He was advised to go and do the work by both my father and Prime Minister Gaston Browne. This choice doesn’t just deserve scorn, it should be mourned. Indeed, it should negatively impact and be hurtful to every single true supporter of Labour because this betrayal is not just against his family but also against the friendship, trust, solidarity, support and love he has received and did not reciprocate.
“My grandfather, his grandfather, Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Snr, must be turning in his grave and that thought is gutting.”
She went on to speak about the importance of family as “the first constituency” and concluded that no debate or difference in opinion is worth breaking that up and although Sean does have the right to choose his own path she questioned whether in the long run “sacrificing his family and their legacy” was the right choice.
One family member is however in support of the new UPP candidate. Vere Cornwall Bird III, chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda True Labour Party, spoke out on Observer radio’s Voice of the People programme on Friday in defence of his former party colleague.
Bird added that history is once again repeating itself, referencing when he formed the True Labour Party and how he was deemed as a traitor too.
“The whole situation is, we are grown men but what Sean did is called democracy and we are going to see more of this happening when you don’t see your party paying you any mind.
“So, when they say that Sean is ruining the legacy and Papa Bird is rolling in his grave, when Lester Bird marched with Tim Hector against his own father, were these people saying the same thing about Lester Bird?” he added.