Neeson’s retirement and an election with guaranteed plumpers?

While the SDLP have a very serious fight for the position of new leader, the psephologists’ guru and Alliance Party Director, Gerry Lynch, has taken campaigning to be a party candidate to a new level in local politics with the launch of a dedicated website for his push to run in the East Antrim Westminster seat.

As he is normally associated with North Belfast does this indicate Sean Neeson will be stepping down from the Assembly and Alliance are looking to profile a successor? Does this mean Alliance’s East Antrim bridesmaid, Stewart Dickson, will never get to step up?

Of course it could just be a statement on double-jobbing but that wouldn’t make for a gossipy blog.

[Gerry – sorry about the title. That’s a pint I owe you on Tuesday ;0)]

  • Really Gerry… really?

    lol that website was a laugh. He is just so photogenic…

    Hmm, 100% loyal to the party? I thinks he is still feeling the pain after being humilated with Parsley leaving.

  • Mark McGregor

    Now then, just because I poked a bit of fun at a friend (sort of) don’t be thinking you can ignore the ‘ball not man’ rule like me. I get told off in private, anyone else will get their bum spanked in public.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Hmm, 100% loyal to the party? I thinks he is still feeling the pain after being humilated with Parsley leaving.

    let’s play spot the Tory who won’t post under his own name.

  • wee rubber

    Comrade Salin unmasked?

  • Really Gerry… Really

    ‘let’s play spot the Tory who won’t post under his own name’

    Actually I wouldn’t vote Tory even if they were the only people running. Bunch of stuck up pricks, only interested in lining their own pockets if you ask me.

    I have thus far only voted in two elections (Deeney and Greens in euro), primarily because i have only lived here a few years

    But don’t let that you making wild persumptions

  • DC

    I had overheard in a shop a good while ago in Carrick that someone called Neeson was retiring but never caught the first name nor saw Sean Neeson mentioned in the press anywhere, but this looks surely like that proof.

    It will be a tough one and I reckon UCUNF may prosper here with a massive personal vote share now coming up for party-political grabs, as the Alliance brand is not strong in terms of style and meaning these days.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Gerry’s playing a smart one here.

    East Antrim should deliver a nationalist and Alliance MLA due to boundary changes in the forthcoming Assembly election.

    Due to the quite frankly appalling record of the nationalist parties in terms of not bothering to contest nor organise in the constituency in any meaningful way- (and I know, having grown up there)- the nationalist vote has always gravitated towards Alliance, though a large non-voting pool of nationalists remains in the constituency.

    Now that the Glens are moving into the constituency, that should change and expect both Sinn Fein and the SDLP to pay attention to parts of the constituency utterly abandoned and not ventured into in the past (from Whitehead down to Jordanstown, as parts of Larne and Glenville in Whiteabbey always got a token nod from both.)

    Gerry, being the psephologist king of the Six Counties, knows the next Alliance candidate needs to get in early to establish a profile and minimise the party’s vote slippage once the nationalist parties finally get round to courting their vote in the area.

    As an articulate speaker and intelligent operator, he shouldn’t have a problem getting a profile in the time ahead, though a council seat would be a good idea (though, of course, he’d have to give it up if successfully elected in a subsequent Assembly election.)

    Problem remains though: he may be an Antrim Roader, but he’s no local profile in any part of the constituency, whereas Dickson and Neeson always had that.

    I think he’s in with a good shot at an Assembly seat if selected, though imagine would face a challenge from a second Alliance candidate probably from the top end of the constituency who he’d need to outpoll.

    He’d also benefit from a failure of the nationalist parties to properly contest the seat; were they to do so, I’ve no doubt one (probably the SDLP at this stage) would take the seat, cutting into the first preference total for Alliance.

    Certainly one to watch….

  • DC

    The only problem being with your analysis Chris is that yes there are nationalists in under-served areas of Whiteabbey but they would be urban not urbane (although Jordanstown may well be different) and out in the Glens where it is rural probably more for the SDLP territory?

    However, Neeson was a Carrick guy through and through in his electoral years and the Prods in Carrick never had any bother with voting Neeson. I mean it really didn’t register a second thought whatsoever.

    This time if he goes they may well reconsider and could easily fall for the liberal minded soft spoken Conservatives. Perhaps a Parsely challenge re MLA stance might make it tight.

    I’m not sure as to how Alliance polls in East Antrim, but if the majority of the Alliance vote is from in and around Carrick / Whitehead and if Neeson the Carrick man goes then it will be very tough.

    We come at this of course from differing viewpoints. Of course we are entering a peaceful phase of life here and the roots that Neeson threw down were in response to different circumstances altogether. So a repetition of that particular sort of electoral strategy may not work in terms of gaining traction. IF UCUNF start talking “shared future” just like the SDLP already is then things will be v tight indeed.

  • oneill

    If he fails it certainly won’t be down to any false modesty. There’s a very thin line between coyly blowing yer own trumpet and with overwhelming your electorate with how much more clever you are than them- Gerry’s just gone stomping regardless over that line.

  • Well, well, well.

    I don’t believe it !!!!! My old history teacher biting the political bullet and hanging up his MLA boots. He taught me Irish History within the confines of Modern Britsh History. Anyway Sean Og, Good luck and a happy retirement, Incidentally remember what I taught you it was Randolph Churchill not Edward Carson that said ‘Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right’.

    Regards
    Rossa

  • Chris Donnelly

    IF UCUNF start talking “shared future” just like the SDLP already is then things will be v tight indeed.

    DC
    UCUNF remain a world away from adopting any such narrative. Their focus will remain the battle to become competitive within unionism, leaving only the deluded/ optimistic (delete at will) UCUNF blogging fraternity (of which Slugger can boast many regular lodgers) to believe they are on the verge of attracting the Alliance vote, ‘prod’ and (in their most naive moments) ‘catholic.’

    I agree that Gerry as a candidate will have a helluva lot of work to do, given that Neeson was a veteran local figure.

    But the Alliance vote can be quite loyal in constituencies like East Antrim, provided the right profile and campaign. The possibility of the nationalist parties coming in shy of a quota and leaving almost 0.8/0.9 of a quota to be transferred upon elimination would more than make up for the anticipated vote slippage due to the lack of local credibility.

    Regarding your comment about the Glens, I think you’ll find Sinn Fein perform quite well ‘up there….’

  • People here are getting carried away putting two and two together and getting nine. Sean hasn’t indicated he is going to retire and plenty of other people would be interested in that nomination anyway. And I haven’t even got the Westminster selection, yet, anyway.

    I’m human enough to relish the thought of taking on Sammy Wilson as someone who is probably the acme of Sammy’s “liberal left” (as he put it on Question Time the other night) nightmare.

    As for the rest, it’s nice to see Sluggerites never failing in their duty to kneecap people for the craic. Do things right and you’re to smart for your own good. Don’t do them and you’re stuck in the past.

    …and I would never pretend to be photogenic, nor do I recommend the unhealthy practise of voting for photogenic people. Voting for the photogenic guy who you would most like to have a beer with was how the word got lumbered with George W Bush.

  • Mark McGregor

    Gerry,

    Its my fault – invited man playing but I think you know it was a barb done with love. Kiss, kiss and all the best.

  • Mark McGregor

    but to be honest Gerry, a website designed to promote a canditature for hopeless Westminster run is either way OTT or a profiling exercise.

    Is it mental or a longterm plan?

  • DC

    Chris to be frank your opinion is too green in that you think everyone is driven by politics and getting the vote out because of past discrimination (perhaps mine is likewise in the other way perhaps). But can i point you to an article by daniel finklestein, which might be worth a read, especially for you and those in SF unionist-outreach (naturally you will have to put it into context of those in non-political life here):

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/daniel_finkelstein/article6920714.ece

    Re the glens, I said “out there in the glens” though you are probably right and I think SF would do well prob in and around Whiteabbey too.

    No one really cares about politics much at the moment and I mean considering things in an informed, proper way, which is why a UCUNF catch-all buzz factor might mean more with its popular shallowness of being everything to all things so long as the style and tone is v nice and v positive. (But actually meaning nothing in substance to me and you.)

    Here’s another article worth a read generally about young people in Serbia, who you would think might care more about their role in a future Serbia, given its war torn past and abuse at the hands of ‘politics’ (http://www.ip-global.org/archiv/volumes/2009/spring2009/mcbelgrade.html):

    I emerged from my taxi in front of McDonald’s, one of the first franchises established in the pre-war city twenty years ago. As I had not yet eaten, I slipped inside for a cheeseburger—and there I saw all the Serbian youths I might wish for. Again I selected a table of four friends and launched my survey in the pauses between revolving cell-phone conversations and text messages. How old were they? Sixteen, all of them. Had they learned anything about the European Union in school? No. Did they want Serbia to join the European Union? They didn’t think about that. What did they think about? They didn’t know. Giggles. But didn’t they want to travel in EU countries without visas? Yes. Should I come back and interview them in two years, when they would be old enough to vote? Shrugs, giggles.

    There was my answer. Serbian teenagers are just as uninformed and inarticulate as their American equivalents. These Serbs were three years old at the time of the Srebrenica atrocity, seven years old during Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing of 70 percent of the majority Albanians in Kosovo. In the post-war Balkans they can enjoy the luxury of ignoring politics.

    People don’t have long memories Chris like those in SF and if you can be popular and positive you never know, you just might UCUNF.

  • slug

    I like Gerry Lynch from the online interaction I have had with him. Definitely someone I could vote for. I am actually nowhere as liberal as he, but I respect his integrity and intelligence.

  • DC

    But Gerry, I was in the paper shop at Carrick rail station and I did hear people there on the till and customers chatting about Neeson resigning in future and saying how supportive he had been etc etc.

    That was about 4-6 months ago, so come on: is there any truth in it?

  • sammy wilson

    “After it became clear in 2007 that the Assembly would start sitting again, he gave up a rewarding and relatively lucrative career to be the Alliance Party’s Executive Director,”

    sounds like his current position is neither rewarding nor lucrative

  • frustrated democrat

    CS

    Ever thought about getting a job NOT paid for by the taxpayer in one way or another?

    With all those fancy A levels and a first degree a job in the private sector might be of more help to NI.

  • Junior Apparatchik

    Good site, but a bit presumptuous for someone not yet even selected?

  • picador

    sounds like his current position is neither rewarding nor lucrative

    Whereas Sammy has a number of rewarding and lucrative positions, don’t you Sammy?

    Wilson not Morse

  • CS

    Ever thought about getting a job NOT paid for by the taxpayer in one way or another?

    FD,

    I am not Comrade Stalin – if you don’t know my habitual online moniker after all the years you’ve spent on Slugger, you’re playing for the slow team old bean. But I do know Comrade Stalin and to my knowledge he has never held a job outside the private sector. And FWIW (not that it’s any of your business) the majority of my salary is funded by private fundraising, not the taxpayer.

    But interesting to see the Tory “public sector=bad” kneejerk in action.

    Is it mental or a longterm plan?

    It costs no money and took me about 3 hours. More people should do it. I was surprised how easy it was as the last time I built a website was about 10 years ago in HTML days.

    Good site, but a bit presumptuous for someone not yet even selected?

    It’s aimed at the selectorate at this stage, rather than the electorate. It would now be fairly normal across the water for people seeking Westminster nominations to have some sort of online presence for the members who are going to decide on the nomination.

    Sammy is of course odds on favourite to hold East Antrim but it’s still an important constituency for Alliance and whoever gets the nomination needs to do the job right.

  • Hypocrisy

    Gerry Lynch

    So you say Neeson has not even indicated he is stepping down and you are already campaigning for his seat? Nice.

    It seems Marjorie Hawkins claims of ageism in the Alliance Party and trying to push the old duffers out the door is bang on.

    Pity there is no shinner in east Antrim so Lynch can’t copy his much adored leader’s election strategy in 07 – vote for me or you’ll get Mitchel McLaughlin – a most obscene campaign that had anyone else run, Ford would have been first out of the pits screaming sectarianism.

    Btw Lynch might want to curb the gaffes if he gets co-opted because that will hardly help matters.

  • borden

    Gerry,

    the very best of luck with your campaign. Having met you at the Euro count I would be delighted to see you in some form of elected office.

  • wild turkey

    “Gerry Lynch is one of the most exciting political talents to emerge in Northern Ireland in recent years…After graduating, like so many young people, he went across the water to further his career, and he was accepted on to the prestigious “Fast Stream” programme for Whitehall Civil Servants. By the age of 24, he had already been promoted to Principal Officer grade”

    Our Gerrys exciting talents are exceeded only by his humility.

    I assume that when ‘he went across the water to further his career’ he walked.

  • granni trixie

    Really…Gerry,really:you would have to explain to me why you think that Gerry Lynch was ‘humiliated’ by Parsleys crossing the floor to the Tories. It was not the General Sec of Alliance who made such a balls up of the potential opportunity you get when you defect, I almost felt sorry for IJP on a personal level (but not quite – he is now a Tory afterall).

    And DC – Alliance is not only extremely meaningful but (even as we speak) seen to be punching well above its numerical strength. Will be interesting to see how a Tory branded Parsley without the protection of the Alliance brand does.

    re Gerry putting his best foot forward on his website – I have always thought cultural value for ‘modesty’ in NI is misplaced – no more helpful in the realm of business than in politics. Perhaps it would be good to see on paper/web how well qualified all our local polticans are? I judge them by their actions/inactions but am curious as to why they are such slow learners.

  • Dropthedeaddodo

    Granny

    Well it is no secret that most of our politicians would be on the dole queue if they were not elected but how does being in the graduate scheme of the civil service uniquely qualify you?

    And come to mention it, what exactly are the qualifications you should have to be a politician? I have heard people bellyache about how a degree in politics is the qualification, but really? The majority of your work as a politician is helping people fill in benefit former, fight planning applications and then the odd poorly delivered speech in the Assembly.

    How does a degree in politics – ie pondering political theories for three years – qualify you for this. Surely if you go strictly by what you will do as a politician, it would be a better qualification to be a community workers or social worker?

    btw greatly amused by the slagging of Parsley, used to be he was Alliance’s golden boy incapable of doing wrong …

  • granni trixie

    Dropthedeaddodo:In many ways I am agreeing with you in that I also believe that,say, a 3rd level education does not make you any more qualified to be an effective politican than, say, someone well versed by the school of life.

    I do think that it is fair enough however for a prospective candidate to highlight USPs. I read Gerrys piece for instance as saying that “Despite having opportunities to succeed in a top job across the water, I had feelings for NI politics and came back home”, probably a mixture of personal ambution and yes, some altruism. In other words, distinguishing himself from political dynsties or those who could not hold down a job outside of political sinecures.

    I also have to say that I believe that gender as well as image and substance are all part of the mix in the perception of ‘desirable qualities a politican ought to have’. For my money,someone like Gerry with political aspirations who has the guts to say so out loud is to be admired.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m flattered that people might mistake me for Gerry, but I’m afraid not. I’m not a politician, and I am certainly not a psephologist. I have no intentions of a career either in politics or the civil service, and my political activities will likely remain restricted to talking about it (online or in the pub) or canvassing/promoting the people that I think should be in power.

    DC:

    IF UCUNF start talking “shared future” just like the SDLP already is then things will be v tight indeed.

    But UCUNF are not talking “shared future” and they’re not capable of persuading anyone that they are serious about making it happen. Not with people like David McNarry and Reg Empey at the helm.

    It will be a tough one and I reckon UCUNF may prosper here with a massive personal vote share now coming up for party-political grabs

    And which UCUNF candidate will be providing that massive personal vote share ? Roy Beggs ? I needed a timely reminder that you live on a completely different planet.

    Chris:

    Problem remains though: he may be an Antrim Roader, but he’s no local profile in any part of the constituency, whereas Dickson and Neeson always had that.

    Chris, I agreed with most of what you wrote, except for this part. There are plenty of precedents for politicians representing an area they have no formal history in. Sammy Wilson, for example, had no profile in the constituency (and indeed sits in BCC). Martin McGuinness and Catriona Ruane had no profile in theirs. Outside of the tribal vote, I believe elections are won and lost here on the basis of constituency work. That is what Sammy Wilson (and most of the DUPers in general) is bloody good at, and – as you rightly said – that’s what Gerry will have his work cut out at doing if he is successfully selected.

    Dropthedeaddodo:

    btw greatly amused by the slagging of Parsley, used to be he was Alliance’s golden boy incapable of doing wrong …

    Well, he was Alliance’s golden boy capable of doing no wrong, then he did a rather rapid and somewhat clumsy volte face which none of us really saw coming; when I first heard the news (here on Slugger) I didn’t believe it. I don’t have a great deal else to say about it to be quite frank. Ian isn’t a personal enemy for me or anyone I know in the Alliance Party. Most of us think that the electorate will come to their own judgement on his decision to switch, and that’s about as much as we can expect in any case. I think it’s silly that people keep talking about it. The world has moved on.

    Hypocrisy:

    It seems Marjorie Hawkins claims of ageism in the Alliance Party and trying to push the old duffers out the door is bang on.

    You’re not doing well if you have to rely on the testimony of someone whose discrimination case was thrown out after she was caught lying to the tribunal.

    Dropthedeaddodo:

    How does a degree in politics – ie pondering political theories for three years – qualify you for this. Surely if you go strictly by what you will do as a politician, it would be a better qualification to be a community workers or social worker?

    Given that most of the election campaigns that Gerry has won recently have seen Alliance increasing its vote share, I think it’s fair to say that he has a good reputation for political campaigning and on identifying the issues that voters feel are important. There’s still a hill to climb, though.

  • DC

    Thanks for that CS.

    What’s it like to be right all the time? I can clearly see why you belong to Alliance.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC, you talk complete and unadulterated nonsense. Don’t get sore at me because the truth hurts.

  • morealivethanadodo

    dropthedeaddodo

    Surely if you go strictly by what you will do as a politician, it would be a better qualification to be a community workers or social worker? (sic)

    I am sure you didn’t mean to praise Gerry’s party leader who is a qualified social worker.

  • DC

    Well you might think what you say is true CS but there are those in my family who voted Neeson for Westminster but are voting UCUNF at the next. This was even before any of this potential change (which in terms of transparency and being up front with the electorate someone in Alliance should explain – rather than this underhanded approach of a website to test the water type thing).

    But when I heard UCUNF, I groaned: oh, don’t do that.

    Now, maybe they are uninformed or ill-advised but you see you might try reading this too to give you a steer on how people think:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/daniel_finkelstein/article6920714.ece

    So what you say isn’t correct, given my own personal account. I’m sorry if your truth is only, to be generous, a not quite full truth.

    Also, it is no aberration on Parsley’s behalf as to why he left Alliance. At least there is a certain degree of humility with Parsley, leaving me quite supportive of other commenters here re this Alliance-type style, which you seem to personnify quite clearly. Always being right.

  • Junior Apparatchik

    Gerry,

    Fair enough. I wish you well.

    Who wrote the text, by the way?

  • wee duff

    Are Gerry Lynch and Comrade Stalin both going to the Slugger Awards on Tuesday night?

  • morealivethanadodo

    DC

    Could you explain what it is about Alliance types always being right, as opposed to other types? Most of the others don’t seem to be falling down with humility on Slugger either. Have you got some hang up?

  • DC

    Hey maybe you’re onto something, it’s politics, everyone is right.

    It’s just Alliance have less to show for it than say other parties who have at least a bigger proportion of the vote share to back them up a little.

  • DropThe DeadDodo

    “Given that most of the election campaigns that Gerry has won recently have seen Alliance increasing its vote share, I think it’s fair to say that he has a good reputation for political campaigning and on identifying the issues that voters feel are important. There’s still a hill to climb, though.”

    Hmm, when did Gerry take over? Are you possibly referring to Naomi Long’s great “victory” in east Belfast in 07? Yes she increased her vote from 2774 to 5583 but its only just scrambling back to where Alliance started when you consider Lord Alderdice used to pull in over 6,000.

    Furthermore, Alliance will only become convincing as a non sectarian party when they start doing well in non unionist areas. Outside the likes of north Down and Antrim you seldom see an Alliance rep. Wonder why

    That’s the one Alliance types usually tout, but

  • Lock up yer grandas,Carrick and Larne yins, he’s been selected!!!!!

    http://www.facebook.com/gi0rtn?v=feed&story_fbid=209291852222