The Slugger Awards 2008 – up-and-coming politician of the year

For this part of the awards, we’re looking to identify the newcomers to public life in Northern Ireland. The quality of politics is partly determined by the personal qualities of its key players, and the changes that will take place in local government over the next few years could have a huge impact on the future of Northern Ireland’s politics.
At the moment, we have 26 councils and 582 councillors in Northern Ireland. By 2011, there will be only eleven councils, and while the exact number of councillors hasn’t yet been finalised, it is expected to be roughly two-thirds of the current figure. The District Electoral Areas (DEA – the subdivisions of those new councils) will not be finalised for at least another year yet, and the electoral system is yet to be formally agreed, but it would be surprising to all concerned if the current Single Transferable Vote (STV) system doesn’t survive the changes.

In addition, there is the question of the ‘Dual Mandate’ – where the same carbon-based life-forms holds more than one of the key elected positions – Councillor, MLA, MP or MEP. Again, this is in the hands of the assembly, but the odds on dual mandates continuing to be permissible look longer by the day.

So, in short, by 2011, it looks like a lot of our councillors will no longer be in office. Some of the new intake will be first-time councillors, so the survival figures are cut further. It looks like outgoing councillors will receive some sort of pay-off, so there is no incentive for timeservers to continue. The kind of qualities that helped get people selected by the parties over the past few decades will also no longer be valued in every case, (particularly by the voters under STV) so this will have a further impact.

Last week, we featured North Down Councillor Roberta Dunlop saying:

“Northern Ireland is crying out for bright young politicians with new ideas and fresh thinking. Yet, how would they ever get a foot on the political ladder when every run of that ladder is occupied by greedy politicians with dual and even triple mandates?”

How indeed? But who are these bright young politicians? And let’s not be ageist about this either – let’s strike ‘young’ from Cllr Dunlop’s quote. Who are the new faces – of any age – that will be shaping politics in Northern Ireland? And let’s not restrict it to local government either. Are there any wanabee MLAs out there that have created an impression? New MLAs who are making a splash?

Again, just a reminder. The Slugger Awards are about promoting a better quality of politics in Northern Ireland. It’s not a forum to continue long-held grudges or a general cynicism about politics. Sluggers’ normal light-touch moderation policy will be tightened up on this one, so please try to keep it positive.

  • percy

    ok My vote is for Mr O’Dowd of SF for “up-and-coming politician of the year”,
    that’s based on his performances in Stormont debates and on TV debates.
    Is this how it works Mick?

  • Seimi

    Charlene O’Hara, Sinn Féin. Very young, hard working councillor in Lisburn.

  • Mick Fealty

    That will do nicely percy. I’m planning a blog on the judging process later on this evening or tomorrow morning.

    In short, I’m be emphasising the importance of qualitative contributions to the category threads here on Slugger, than to numbers in favour.

    So if you choose someone, give your remarks some thought so that the judging panel will have something tangible to get hold of when they come to make a short list!

    That said, we have two SF candidates. There have to other worthies in other parties, surely?

  • heck


    I don’t live in Norn Iron anymore so this is interesting. However the one other group that sets the political agenda is the media commentators. Are there any new “bright young things” in that arena. Are there any really good investigative journalists in the mold of ed maloney or peter taylor

  • Chris Donnelly

    My List of Top Performers in past year

    Simon Hamilton for the DUP- a talent no doubt and scoop for that party.

    Basil McCrea for the UUP- yes, bit of a waffler, but I gotta admire the self-confidence and desire to get in on every story going.

    Daithi McKay for Sinn Fein- in from the off over the Paisley Jnr story and an articulate spokesperson and good local representative.

    Naomi Long for Alliance- could talk legs off stools but haven’t met anybody who doesn’t have a good word for her.

    I know I haven’t stuck to the up and coming list, but Hamilton could probably still qualify under that title; Charlene O’Hara is a good local representative for Colin area- and a student teacher no less!

  • slug

    We note that the SDLP are conspicuous from their absence in Chris’s list. Margaret Ritchie?

  • Marcus

    Cllr Cadogan Enright of the Green Party. He was co-opted onto Down District Council in December 2007 and has played a blinder locally ever since!

    He is more active than any other local councillor in Down District and is building up a whole load of other ‘Green candidates’ around him who will most likely be contesting the next locals by his side.

    he also created a good wee website to show his supporters and constituents the work he has done. you can see the press cuttings category there to see how popular he is with the local press.

  • slug


    Or, if you think Ms Ritchie too established, then how about, Belfast’s freshest new councillor one Mr Niall Kelly aka the Belfast Stoop. He’s a blogging councillor:

    The Belfast Stoop

  • Driftwood

    Margaret Ritchie for honesty. Basil McCrea for being upfront, David Ford for recognising the folly of it all.
    Is Newton Emerson allowed to be included?

  • John McCallister

  • gram

    Caitriona Ruane

  • never heard of any of those Councillor’s mentioned above….

    but is “hearing” about them the key point????

    what about “hard working” surely that is the most important requirement – how is it gauged though?

    electorally, word of mouth???

  • shouldn’t be a ‘ in councillors – sorry

  • GGC

    Sinn Fein’s east belfast Rep Niall O’Donnghaile.

  • Bigger Picture

    I will stick my oar in and name a couple:

    Cllr William Humphrey – Shankill DUP Cllr who has built up a good constituency base along side his colleague Diane Dodds. Done alot to promote himself to ensure he doesn’t get 880 votes to his colleague Diane Dodds’ 4350 votes at the next council election. Tireless work of the two cllr’s should ensure two more council seats in the ward for the DUP.

    Michell McIlveen MLA – Someone who has performed better, in my view, than Simon Hamilton MLA on the basis that she is already seen as a consistent performer and a safe pair of hands. The fact that she has been promoted as the new party secretary in place of Nigel Dodds is proof of that.

    Cllr Carol Black – For succeeding despite pulling the UUP vote further down in Dromore.

    Cllr Niall Kelly – Just for the fact that he is the most hip cllr out there. Get him and his blog!

    Edwin Poots MLA – New Minister, does that count? For his shameless promotion of lost causes and down right ignorance he displayed to SF in his last question time. Very funny.

    John McCallister MLA – A country farmer as an MLA, enough said I could listen to that man all day long!

    Cllr Roy Gillespie – For shameless flag waving

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks BP!


    The nominations should come with reasons and a bit of background. Numbers won’t help win the award, but qualitative reasons might.


    From the post above:

    “Again, just a reminder. The Slugger Awards are about promoting a better quality of politics in Northern Ireland. It’s not a forum to continue long-held grudges or a general cynicism about politics. Sluggers’ normal light-touch moderation policy will be tightened up on this one, so please try to keep it positive.”

    In short, this particular comment zone is not freely available for discussion. It is for nominations. Which is why both your comments were clipped.

  • Mark McGregor

    Bernice Swift for sticking to her principles, refusing to be silenced or sidelined and continuing to represent her electorate as an independent.

  • Blackmouth

    Has to be Michael Shilliday, his insightful articles and free-spirited refusal to blindly toe a party line in his posting are an inspiration to us all…..

  • graduate

    Deirdre Nelson new(ish) councillor in Ballymena. Bright,apparently hard-working and capable potential MLA material. Ran 2007 Assembly elections and did ok for a first timer in a difficult situation given “magnificent 7” in Ballymena. One to watch.

  • nectar

    Deirdre self praise is no praise : )

  • austin

    moderator, I am at a loss as to why my nomination from last night was removed?

  • Mark McGregor

    Basil McCrea – can talk without notes that must put him straight in the top 10%. Plus unlike wee Jeff he’s happy walking around his constituency without a shadow packing heat (one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever seen in a count centre).

  • Blackmouth

    In all seriousness, I think Simon Hamilton deserves the award closely followed by Basil McCrea, the next leader of the Official Unionists.

  • Máirseáil Uí Néill

    I see Vincent Parker is Sinn Féin’s new rep in Balmoral.

    He’ll make an excellent candidate for them at the next council election!

  • hiro protangonist

    My votes/nominations would go to

    John McCallister would get the nod as a newish politicians who you can actually listen to.

    But then Naomi Long has made big strides this year completely out playing her ‘leader’ but she isnt exactly new.

    However my first choice would be Dawn Purvis – as within a year and a bit she has had to try and fill David Ervine’s shoes and then within a month of that win an election and then function within an assembly with no help or allies.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Baes on the media.

    I will go for Robbo and John O’Dowd ( in that order) – neither are new but have arrived in their elevated positions and performed excellently.

    The 2 wee fellahs Dave Ford and Reggie ( in that order ) for the new down-and-disappearing awards.

  • RK

    Dawn Purvis – clear, calm and a credit. Liking Naomi Long but can’t think of reasons other than boy can she hold her own! Not being ageist but don’t think you can get away from talking about Daithi McKay across all fronts – local council and at Stormont, he certainly doesn’t let go of an issue. Moving away from the work, will last weeks footage end up being the best media clip?!

  • Nilad

    What about the SDLP’s Cllr Colin McGrath? He is only 32 and the youngest ever Chairman of Down District Council and also the Vice Chairman of the SDLP.

    I think the greens might find he as Council Chairman he is slightly harder working then Mr Enright?

    Young, enthusiastic and displaying excellent leadership capabilities – my vote is for Colin.

  • Mack

    Ian McCrea MLA is my pick. He was the Chairman of Cookstown District Council until June and has provided an excellent constituency service and deals with many local issues which are more important than bigger polical issues.

  • When left & right are wrong

    Michelle McIlveen! Great committee attender and always comes ready to make a real contribution to proceedings. Unlike those around her, Michelle chooses her words carefully and always has brevity on her side, but, as my mother always says, it’s the quiet ones you have to look out for. She’s a real asset to her party and I’m sure she will continue to perform well on the political stage.

  • When left & right are wrong

    For a return that defies believe (and perhaps even the laws of nature) i believe Lord David Trimble should be on this list. His reemergence onto the political scene can only be bested by Dirty Den’s ressurrection on Eastenders.

  • o’malley

    ian mccrea may actaully do well in cookstown but he really hasnt made his mark in the Assembly – so councillor of the year rather than MLA or upcoming?

    David Trimble – you are having a laugh. glass

  • jacksayeraliveandwell

    Simon Hamilton yes – a hard worker; on top of his many briefs and he has a sense of humour, but Basil McCrea? – just because Basil McCrea tells everyone that he will be the next leader, doesnt actually mean that he will be leader

    Are Official Unionsts that desperate? I actually don’t believe they are.

    Speaking without notes is a skill indeed, but surely what you say is more important!

    Beyond the media and self generated hype, Basil hasn’t been performing particularily well at committee and at times, he has undermined his own arguements about Grammer Schools with his hyperbole and scaremongering.

    Sammy Wilson did a far better job when he had the education brief – at least he seems to KNOW something about education.

  • Ulsterman

    The Shamilton, John O’Dowd, Daithí McKay and Basil McCrea all strong candidates. McCrea doesnt know when to stop talking though which may work against him!

  • apotho

    McCrea doesn’t know when to stop cashing cheques is more to the point which is definitely working against him.

    Sticking with the UUP though – my vote would be for John McCallister