The Slugger Awards 2008: Local Councillor of the year

This award is one that Slugger has a bit of a backstory with this year. Wisely or otherwise, this site has taken to the promotion of local councillors with some relish. We’ve endorsed the project and we’ve started running a regular ‘councillor of the week’ feature, and our next one is probably overdue.

For all of the reasons set out in our earlier award post about ‘Up and Coming Politician of the Year’ – the 2011 changes, the smaller number of councillors that will be needed, the wider representation and the new powers they will exercise – Northern Ireland is in a unique position in that it could see the quality of local democracy improve significantly over the next few years.

Councillors are central to that. In the past, it could be said in some cases that they were selected for a narrow sectarian appeal. This is less and less the case and the 2011 changes should change that further.

Councillors are often seen as a parochial lot. The ambitious ones may have more to say about the big issues in Stormont or beyond, and are clearly jockeying for something grander. This award is all about finding examples of good solid local councillors – ones that are good communicators, good at asserting the public interest over that of officialdom, and ones that have something to say about local issues beyond the briefings of their parties.

This may mean that they are more interested in expressing themselves in terms that seem to be parochial as well. We’re looking for examples of good initiatives, effective interventions, or straightforward dedication to community work. It is only through the promotion of effective legitimate local councillors that Northern Ireland can step away from the dominance that some so-called ‘community representatives’ exercise.

Of the 582 councillors we currently have, a fair number of them are awaiting for the RPA changes to retire them. You can probably get a fair idea of the ones that intend to stay on after 2011 by looking at which ones have established one of those websites that we’ve been promoting – here.

Usual award rules apply here – positive comments please. A few commenters have felt a bit constricted by our relentless deletion of negativity here – and some of the complaints about this are understandable. But let me let you into a secret. If we hadn’t applied this rule, any positive comments would have been entirely crowded out in each thread. It would not be possible to achieve what we’re doing here without a bit of monitoring.

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