Slugger Awards: what makes a good councillor?

The front runners in the councillor of the year award so far… Cara McShane currently Chair of Moyle District Council; Councillor Walter Cuddy, UUP councillor for Dungannon town; the SDLP’s PJ McAvoy in Ballymena; the DUP’s Adrian McQuillan in Coleraine; Sinn Fein’s Lord Mayor of Belfast last year Tom Hartley and his party colleague Conor Maskey. Matthew McDermott of the SDLP on Lisburn City Council. UUPs Alderman Michael Copeland from Castlereagh Borough Council. UUP veteran politician at various levels, Jim Speers. Michael Carr, of the SDLP in Newry and Mourne. Cllr Ian Parsley newly Conservative Councillor for Holywood. Sitting Councillor of the Year, Deirdre Nelson whose also move to the Conservatives. There’s also a nomination for ex councillor Domhnall O’Cobhthaigh of Fermanagh District. Naomi Long for her energetic role as Lord Mayor of Belfast. But of all the contributions this was the most challenging:

A good Councillor should be hard working, honest, and not be too ambitious. They should have the ordinary person’s needs at heart.

Party politics should not take precedent over common sense.

A good Councillor will not care about getting into photos and hearing themselves talk at meetings just to be seen in the press. They should only speak if they have something to contribute to a discussion – they should not be repeating what four or five other Councillors have already said. They should not care if one Councillor has taken on a particular issue that they may be getting some glory for – jealousy should not come into the work of Public Representatives but it too often does.

Councillors are public servants – they should be working for the people as best they can. They should not be feathering their own nest or that of their party or party colleagues. They should take into account and accept other people’s opinions. Respect for the way others do things is important.

I am a Councillor and I have seen it all since I was elected. Jealousy and ambition play too much of a part. I dont know many Councillors, or people who would like to be a Public Representative, who is genuinely there for the people and not just for themselves.

A few are there for the right reasons – I hope I am one of them although I am prepared to accept I am not if my Constituents feel different.

The Councillor of the Year should be someone who we can genuinely see as having made an impact in their own community in however long they have been elected. Many dont shout about what they do from the rooftops – this doesnt mean they dont regularly work hard within their community. PR is a wonderful thing and many representatives (and parties) are very good at using it.

If anyone can name a Councillor who fits the bill I will happily give them my vote.

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