For this part of the awards, were 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 Irelands 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 hasnt 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 doesnt 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 lets not be ageist about this either lets strike young from Cllr Dunlops quote. Who are the new faces of any age that will be shaping politics in Northern Ireland? And lets 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. Its 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.