Stormont


>Seriously earlier this evening this was how we found out which Government departments were being chosen by which party in the Northern Ireland Executive. Though the Official NI Assembly Twitter feed came a number of Tweets.

So there we have it. Via Twitter we were informed that:

  • DUP will informally take Department of Finance and Personel
  • Sinn Féin Department of Education
  • DUP Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment
  • UUP Department of Regional Development
  • Sinn Féin Departmenf of Agriculture and Rural Development
  • SDLP Department of the Environment
  • DUP Department of Social Development
  • Sinn Féin Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure
  • DUP Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
  • Alliance Department of Employment and Learning

>One of mine and politicians of all persuasions over the weekend was the sight of Dawn Purvis being eliminated from the count in East Belfast. Last year after the UVF the paramilitary group associated with the Progressive Unionist Party of which she was leader murdered Billy Moffett, she stepped down as leader and resigned from the party. She was a vibrant and feisty member of the Assembly and did a lot of work in highlighting the double and triple jobbing of some of her colleagues. She will be sorely missed.

However, there are now more women in this Assembly that in the last, which had 15. Twelve actually got re-elected and there are eight new faces to join them. That raises the representation of women to 18.5 percent still a long way to go to gender equality. Northern Ireland may be moving out of a warlike status of politics but the combatants are still largely male.

Margaret Ritchie had a appalling performance in the final leaders debate. She really was the sniping old wife at the garden fence with he snide one liners. It wasn’t becoming and may have affected some of the SDLP’s slide. She is better than that and hopefully some of the new in take will show what women can do. Of the women returning both Anna Lo (Alliance) South Belfast, Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Féin) Fermanagh and South Tyrone and Michelle McIlveen (DUP) Strangford all managed to join Ritchie in topping their polls and getting in on the first count. Sinn Féin’s Jennifer McCann (West Belfast) and Martina Anderson (Foyle) along with the DUP’s Arlene Foster (Fermanagh and South Tyrone) were other women returned by reaching their quota on the first round.

They include Brenda Hale the war widow who is now DUP MLA for Lagan Valley who has already said she will fight for war widows’ rights, the DUP’s Paula Bradley who is just completing her term as Mayor of Newtownabbey but now now MLA for East Antrim, the UUP’s women’s officer Sandra Overend was also elected in Mid Ulster and Judith Cochrane of the Alliance Party continuing the party’s success in East Belfast where she joined Chris Lyttle who had replaced Naomi Long as MLA when she was elected to Westminster.

 The other debutantes in the Assembly are DUP’s Pam Lewis (South Antrim), UUP’s Joanne Dobson (Upper Bann), Sinn Féin’s Michaela Boyle (West Tyrone) and Karen McKevitt for the SDLP in (South Down).

Somebody’s put a little tribute together for Dawn, I like it especially as it has a shot of Dawn out with us for the Yes! campaign last Sunday in it.

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In today’s Newsletter UUP leader Tom Elliot tries to defend his outburst in his acceptance speech where he called talked of “the scum of Sinn Féin”. I am producing it in full so I cam fisk it in red.

 My Comment was right um I’ll get unto that later by Tom Elliot UUP

MY remarks at the count in Omagh have attracted a great deal of attention and comment.

The people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone suffered grievously at the hands of the IRA, many of whom were members of Sinn Fein for decades. This is true, there is no denying history.

Whilst we are now in a new era and many people would prefer us to whitewash the past, many of us are not whitewashing the past, what we are doing is attempting to move on the fact is that Sinn Fein as a party does come with some pretty awful baggage. As does the UUP and Elliot himself, he will no doubt still be commemorating a Battle from 1690 all summer. As I stood in that hall yesterday I was subjected to abuse and heckling from the worst type of Sinn Fein’s supporters.

My comments were certainly not directed at broad nationalism, republicanism or indeed Sinn Fein supporters and members in general, as I am aware that a number of their members may not have been involved in terrorism.

However we need to remember that a number of these Sinn Fein members are unrepentant members of the IRA, who have murdered people from this province. Sinn Féin have renounced violence and recent murders. Their political aim is still the same that of a united Ireland. They are now seeking to achieve that through democratic means. Just as in the same way that Elliot’s Unionist Party forebears sought to keep Ireland, and since 1921 Northern Ireland, in the Union. Indeed the Unionist set up a militia the Ulster Volunteers in 1913 to defend the Union by force if necessary. Neither side is without a paramilitary past in Irish conflict history.

My comments may have shocked or caused discomfort to some people, but I have to say that the murder campaign mounted by the IRA, which resulted in over 3,000 deaths, caused a great deal more.

It is amazing that I get severely criticised for these comments, while just two weeks ago at the republican Easter Rising commemorations senior Sinn Fein representatives glorified the IRA terrorist campaign that murdered many Northern Ireland citizens with comments like: “The IRA were not war mongers. They were a revolutionary force….” Was this a dig at his fellow Fermanagh and South Tyrone representative Sean Lynch.

And: “They took up arms in a bid to force the British out of our country. Their sacrifice and selflessness is an inspiration to us all.” I’ll remind Tom that through the summer with a culmination on 12th July he will be celebrating a force from the Netherlands that came over to Ireland to rid the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland of its rightful sovereign, because he worshiped God in a different way.

None of these comments, which are insulting to many within our community, received the same type of adverse publicity or attention. Maybe that is because you are a political leader who is talking about a shared future and this was your acceptance speech on being elected to represent ALL the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Yes! Even those that choose to fly a tricolour.

With regard to the results of the election, the UUP entered it with 16 seats and we have returned with 16 seats. Clearly many media commentators and pundits will be deeply disappointed this morning that their gleeful forecasts of meltdown and wipe-out did not come to pass. I’m not sorry to disappoint them.

The Ulster Unionist Party has been around for over 100 years Should I be pedantic and point out that from 1905 -1920 it was the Irish Unionist Party and Ulster Unionists have learned the ability to take a few knocks and come back from them. Life is not just about setbacks, but how you respond to them.

He then goes on to what a leader should be talking about in his acceptance speech.

We did indeed face setbacks in this election, but we also have some good news. I am obviously deeply sad that Fred Cobain did not manage to hold his seat. He will be sorely missed by the Ulster Unionist assembly team and the ordinary working people of North Belfast for whom he was a tireless worker and advocate.
I also regret the loss of our second seat in East Antrim where Rodney McCune put up a great fight but ultimately lost out to Sinn Fein. My commiserations and best wishes go out to all the defeated Ulster Unionist candidates.

But there is good news too with the addition of five new faces to the UUP assembly team, providing fresh ideas and approaches to complement the tried and trusted performers. Amongst the five new faces are two female MLAs in the form of Jo-Anne Dobson and Sandra Overend. I would also like to congratulate Ross Hussey on regaining a seat for the UUP in West Tyrone and Mike Nesbitt for regaining a second seat in Strangford. We will also benefit from the emergence of new blood in the form of Robin Swann in North Antrim.

It is vital that the next four years will provide a settled position for education in terms of both post-primary transfer and a way forward with an administration body. This is something that would instill much confidence within the public of Northern Ireland.

There also needs to be an immediate slimming down of our government and reduction of the size of the structures.

Finally some thoughts from me.

Tom I consider myself a proud Ulster man. On Saturday I  took great pride in wearing an Ulster county tartan. I’m a true man with roots in the north of Ireland. As one family member only people with viking blood like us could have survived and farmed where the family farmed for centuries. Thing is Tom that tartan was Donegal, the farm was in the frozen north of Malin head, the west facing side. One of my grandparents was born there, three of my great-grand parents, three branches of the family have roots in Donegal. Indeed one member of the family was Grand Master of the Orange Order in St. Johnstown, Donegal.

So yeah they may have been staunch Unionists but the flag of the land of my roots combines the Green of nationalism, the orange of unionism and the white of peace. It is a flag that was meant to symbolise a shared future, much in the same way that Elliot is meant to be leader of a party that is looking for a shared future. He should be one of those who really needs to grow up on the issue of symbols.

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I was sitting around near the North Down Alliance team, augmented by Brian Wilson and the DUP’s Peter Weir as they accumulated their tallies on Friday morning after verification.

Even then it was clear that Peter along with his party colleagues Alex Easton and Gordon Dunne were going to get elected. Stephen Farry of the Alliance also looked safe it was a matter of where the other two seats would go. The UUP were looking like they didn’t have a full quota (4015 is turned out) between them, the two independent Alans, McFarland, the former UUP MLA looking to be returned now he was independent, and Chambers. Or would the Alliance manage to get a second in with Anne Wilson or would the Green’s manage to replace her husband with Steven Agnew.

It was all tense stuff. The main concern was how the DUP transfers would go. A lot of DUP papers appeared to have just 1,2,3 and no further preference but others did transfer. The other thing was how would the independent Unionist votes transfer and most worryingly for the UUP would they still be in the race if one of the independents got eliminated.

The breakdown of the results was:

DUP 3 candidates 3.1 quotas
Alliance 2 candidates 1.3 quotas
UUP 2 candidates 0.7 quotas
Green 1candidate 0.55 quotas
Alan McFarland 0.46 quotas
Alan Chambers 0.44 quotas

Others 3 candidates (SDLP, UKIP, Sinn Féin) 0.42 quotas

It was going to be tight. Agnew was just 107 first preferences ahead of Anne Wilson to come 5th. But that once the DUP managed to get there three in on one on the first round and the other two on the allocation of Easton’s surplus in the second round it was the unionist block of 1.6 quotas that made it unlikely that both Wilson and Agnew would make it. So although it was unclead which unionist made it as well there was a fight on for the sixth seat between the Alliance and Greens and it was going to be tight. Problem for me now was that it looked like my top three preferences were going to only secure two seats.

When both the Alans were eliminated it pushed Leslie Cree over the quota securing the UUP one seat and then it was down to his surplus. The transfer of that ended up giving Agnew the edge maintaining a Green representative at Stormont.

However, it does throw up interesting permitations for the Executive. The UUP are on 16 seats they secured Cree’s seat from 9th place in the first preferences. Though you are not going to get me suddenly defending First Past the post that saw DUP 1,2,3, Alliance 4 and 6 with Greens 5. If Anne Wilson had of won her seat that would have been 9 Alliance. Therefore under D’Hondt the second UUP seat (the final seat to be allocated*). Eight the half of the UUP seats (having already secured one minister) will be equal to the 8 seats held by the Alliance. The tie break is votes again divided as by D’Hondt. There the UUP’s 87, 531 is divided by 2 making 43,765 again less than the Alliance’s 50,875, therefore earning David Ford another seat.

The UUP are however flirting with David McClarty the former deputy speaker and member of their party who stood as an independent after failing to be selected in East Londonderry. He managed to get 73 first preferences more than the two UUP candidates and get re-elected where either of them failed to do. But this is a case of where the people did have a option of voting for an official party candidate and didn’t do so. What would have happened in North Down if instead of Cree getting in another former UUP MLA Alan McFarland had got elected, would it then have been them that they were courting. Or what if Wilson and McFarland had got in instead of Cree and Agnew this would all have just been a series of what ifs in the final rounds of counting in Newtownards on Saturday that would have been eventually forgotten.

* The order will be DUP, Sinn Féin, DUP, UUP, SF, SDLP, DUP, SF, DUP, Alliance

>Already I’ve covered the media braodcasts that the mainstream media have covered here for the Northern Ireland elections. But we are in a social media age, so some of the many Independent candidates have put up there own videos on YouTube. They don’t have the big media budgets of the mainstream parties, so they don’t always have the production values if the videos I have posted before. But here are the ones I have found so far.

Starting in East Belfast with Stephen Stewart

Charles Smyth standing in South Belfast on a Pro Capitalism ticket

If you know of any others please let me know in the comments below and I will post them on the blog.

>Over here in Northern Ireland we have a different set of parties, with a different set of policies and a different set of priorities to a lot of the rest of the UK. In the run up to the Assembly Election on May 5th they are going to be prodicing a series of election broadcasts. I intend to, if they are easily available (i.e. on YouTube), embed them here so that people outside of Northern Ireland can see what the parties here are saying. I personally won’t be passing comment, but feel free to add you own in the comments thread.

I’ve been rather remiss at keeping this up this week, but here is the People Before Profit Alliance broadcast.

>Over here in Northern Ireland we have a different set of parties, with a different set of policies and a different set of priorities to a lot of the rest of the UK. In the run up to the Assembly Election on May 5th they are going to be prodicing a series of election broadcasts. I intend to, if they are easily available (i.e. on YouTube), embed them here so that people outside of Northern Ireland can see what the parties here are saying. I personally won’t be passing comment, but feel free to add you own in the comments thread.

I’ve been rather remiss at keeping this up this week, but here is the Traditional Unionist Voice broadcast.

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