The Slugger Awards 2008: External representives (MPs, MEPs and others)

The political contest in Northern Ireland has been primarily an internal one, albeit with significant Irish/British dimensions and (mostly) useful interventions from the EU, US and so on. This award therefore celebrates those who represent us beyond the six county/province/Ulster/NI/failed statelet (and whatever you’re having yourself!)

Who amongst our 18 MPs has shone at Westminster? Durkan in his first year of leadership? The wise old Eddie McGrady? Dodds and Wilson, Campbell and the two Robinsons? The lone UUP Hermon? And although the five Sinn Féin representatives choose not to attend, they do still operate outside the jurisdiction – Martin McGuinness’s conflict resolution work in Sri Lanka and Iraq come to mind for example, alongside DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson (also active on abortion) and (Lord) John Alderdice.Which neatly takes us to our unelected representatives in the House of Lords… do we recognise the redoubtable May Blood (Baroness Blood of the River Blackwater in the county of Armagh to give her full moniker) and her decade of feisty argument amongst her peers (or should that be Peers?) Does John Laird’s remarkable advocacy of Ulster Scots in that place deserve recognition? David Trimble now on the conservative benches (is his work on water charges worth acknowledging?) and revisionist historian (as some have it) Paul Bew, a relative newcomer. What about John Taylor (Kilclooney) and Ken Maginnis (Drumglass) and their efforts in Northern Cyprus? The late Billy Blease gave sterling service on trade union matters until this summer.

We also are looking at our three sturdy MEPs, representing myriad interests through Jim Allister, Bairbre de Brún and Jim Nicholson. Is Allister to be rewarded for his honourable and statesperson-like defection from the DUP and diligent campaign thereafter? De Brún for pursuit of language rights and concern about climate change? And Nicholson for farmers’ rights or for his role as only one of six parliamentary Quaestors?

And finally might we extend the awards to our other unelected friends in the European Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC)? Jane Morrice and Jim McCusker have been ploughing a lone furrow on the role of the EU in the peace process, we hear from informants.

In all, who represents us well outside this little place? Who promotes a positive image or at least an articulate expression of a strand of opinion, whether or not you agree with it. Who do we admire?

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 keep it positive.

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  • nineteensixtyseven

    I don’t think I heard a better speech against 42 days detention than the one from Mark Durkan. It’s just a pity some of our elected representatives in Westminster supported the “digitally remastered Special Powers Act”.

  • Mick Fealty

    You can actually get the text of some of the work of the people in this category and those of the committee chairs from various online sources. In the case of Durkan’s speech for instance you can pick the text of it here. is an excellent source for instance.

  • slug

    I’d agree that Mark Durkan’s Westminster speeches are of a very good quality, probably the best of all our MPs. For that reason I would like to nominate him.

  • Another nomination for my party leader, Mark Durkan. Apart from the SDLPs work on 42 day detention the SDLP has also been involved at Westminster on issues such as baninf the use of cluster mines. A perfect example of the SDLP looking beyond the six counties in the north to the wider world. 42 days and cluster mines are perfect examples of why taking seats at Westminster is important.

  • slug

    Mark Durkan.

    Readon: his high qauality contributions to Westminster debates as can be read in the THEY WORK FOR YOU website.

    Particularly on the 42 day debate: his contribution was clearly respected by other MPs, not only his own speech but also for comments and interjections through the debate. Other MPs recognised his understanding of the issue, given the constituency he represents. His stand was clearly a principled one.

    After the 42 day vote Peter Robinson’s DUP were accused of bartering concessions for human rights. No such charge can be laid against Mark Durkan or the SDLP team in Westminster.

  • Mark McGregor

    Without a doubt – Jim Allister, he has taken a role that normally gets no coverage anywhere and built it into a profile for challenging the Assembly, affecting the outcome of council seats, causing Stormont ministers to run in council bye-elections and gaining more media time than any person solely elected to that position I can think of. Punched above his weight big time.

  • Mark McGregor

    mmmm………I wasn’t saying he had done anything positive though, just saying he had done more with his role than others and within his limitations has had considerable success. But this competition is so bloody positive focused I should explicitly state I don’t personally think he has every done a positive thing politically in his life.

    What way does that work with your airy-fairy rules Mick?

  • Doreen Thompson

    Jim Allister’s intellectual weight is very great, however.

  • Hary Porter

    I nominate Sammy Wilson. He has the highest vote attendance of any NI MP and speaks on so many subjects – a good backbench MP.

  • Gum

    Probem with Sammy though Harry is that he’s also a minister here and an MLA. It is a tall order for anyone to do all three jobs well. I think our MPs should make a choice between Ministerial posts and their Westminster posts.

  • Mark, Allister’s contribution to the Rathlin ferry saga has been noted by folks on another island. Will he ‘fix it’ for both?

    It could be quite a challenge. I understand whistle-blowers from different parts of the UK and Ireland are keen to facilitate an investigation by the NIAO. However, I expect the Belfast, Dublin and Edinburgh establishments to batten down the hatches; they may possibly sacrifice a few ‘prawns’. Even if there has been political direction I think it’s highly unlikely that any Minister will ‘walk the plank’ 🙂

    Now, if this had been a tale about the endangered North Antrim lobster the mainstream media would have gone ‘potty’ …

  • “Does John Laird’s remarkable advocacy of Ulster Scots in that place deserve recognition?”

    Perhaps John deserves recognition for number of questions asked!!

    [aside]Humble MP’s assistant is in the news again.

    Paisley Jnr in legal move over claims

    “I consider that Mr Ian Paisley Jnr is engaged to meet a genuine need as Dr Paisley’s parliamentary assistant and that it is reasonable to conclude that he has undertaken work for which he has been paid. I therefore dismissed the complaint,” Mr Lyons said.

    Junior hits back:

    The DUP MLA said: “I have always said that any and all allegations made against me were part of an unrelenting character assasination, that ran between September 2007 and February 2008. That campaign ultimately resulted in my resignation as a government minister, yet all accusations were groundless.

    “I believe that with each and every inquiry my integrity and character is being upheld. However, I believe I have been subjected to unjust and unfair allegations that have completely crumbled.”

    As a result, he confirmed that he yesterday took advice from his solicitor, who is considering the “hurtful and spiteful” allegations made against him and whether or not he has grounds for pursuing damages.

  • Chris Donnelly

    What about our two international representatives who achieved Olympic success representing Ireland and Britain respectively- Paddy Barnes and Wendy Houvenaghel? Kinda outshone the achievements of our politicians in the past several months…

    I do think Allister deserves a mention due to his ability to keep up a strong profile since leaving the DUP; and McGuinness’ conflict resolution work, whilst not appreciated by many of his/ SF’s detractors here, is probably more appreciated outside of the goldfish bowl of northern politics and warrants a nominee as well (in my opinion anyway.)

  • Dave Newman

    I’d like to nominate Lembit Opik, for protecting us from asteroids (and getting Armagh observatory involved in an interplanetary issue, not just a European one).

  • o’malley

    i have been checking in on this particular thread over the past couple of weeks and it is interesting that nobody has managed to come up with a significant rival to Mark Durkan’s work around 42 days detention.

    His introductory remarks at the recent SDLP fringe event at the Labour Party Conference are what provoked me to log on here and nominate him again – he was great.

    Despite a few pat digs at Sinn Féin and the DUP (but let’s be honest, mainly SF – does he not get bored by this?), his comparison between the most recent piece of legislation and the NI special powers act was both lucid and insightful – it even managed to make listening to Alasdair McDonnell less painful than usual – that alone deserves some sort of a prize.

    What about Baroness May Blood in the House of Lords? Her work on the Goods and Services bill should be noted. I can only conclude that the earlier comment that Jim Allister ‘punches above his weight’ was a deeply sarcastic line and the nomination should have been excluded under the positive comments only rule.

    Jim couldn’t punch his way out of a brown paper bag – he provides easy negative lines for journalists looking for the quickest way to start a fight. At least de Bruin is talking about energy policy coming out of Europe.

    It is an MP’s job to turn up at Westminster – so Sammy Wilson’s nomination is a bit shallow. However, there is a very good reason for him not to get this particular award – he was one of the nine DUP MPs who supported the Government on 42 days detention – and for what?

    Still no money to pay for our water infrastructure; no £100m to pay for the back pay owed to thousands of civil servants; what about a decent railway link to the north west ( or anywhere for that matter?) .

    If you are going to be bought off you should be bought off for a decent price – the DUP sold our rights (and that of millions of others) for next to nothing.

  • pith

    Who’s been grassin’ on the lads in the ECOSOC brigade? Seriously, it’s great that Jane Morrice and the other member have been pushing the Peace process forward in that key EU institution that most people who have ever had any contact with (me included) think should be abolished – along with the Committee of the Regions. A total waste of public money.

  • We nominate Baroness May Blood for her community work. May uses her position in the House of Lords to highlight many issues affecting her fellow citizens. We are particularly grateful for her public demonstration of solidarity in the face of disgraceful comments by a high profile politician against the LGBT community. In July May launched our photographic exhibition to challenge stereotypes, called ‘Underexposed’ at Belfast Central Library. May said “I’m here not just to support lesbian and gay people, but because I am against discrimination in any form”.
    We are also grateful to Junior Minister Gerry Kelly MLA and Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Tom Hartley who also attended the event.

  • pith

    That’s a very oblique comment about Jane Morrice and someone else ploughing a lone furrow at ECOSOC. As that body is generally perceived to be a total waste of public money with absolutely no input in the EU decision-making process what could their lonely ploughing really amount to? Stoney ground surely?

    If the EU ever does manage to reform itself ECOSOC will probably be the first casualty of institutional overhaul closely followed by the marginally less ridiculous Committee of the Regions.

  • We also are looking at our three sturdy MEPs, representing myriad interests through Jim Allister, Bairbre de Brún and Jim Nicholson. Is Allister to be rewarded for his honourable and statesperson-like defection from the DUP and diligent campaign thereafter? De Brún for pursuit of language rights and concern about climate change? And Nicholson for farmers’ rights or for his role as only one of six parliamentary Quaestors?