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.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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