Are hustings a thing of the past?

Am I the only person who has been disappointed by the lack of hustings in local constituencies? Reading election literature doesn’t give you a complete picture about candidates, and how they engage with difficult issues – and difficult people – could be crucial to how you’d vote. (OK, other factors like how you’ve always voted, and how your parents voted might also be crucial in NI too.)

logo for CARE's Make The Cross Count initiativeUnder the banner of their Make The Cross Count initiative, the organisation CARE has been encouraging local churches to get together and give local people an opportunity to hear from and address all their local candidates. They even produced a handy How to organise a hustings guide.

Of the eighteen NI constituencies, only Belfast East and North Antrim went ahead with hustings under CARE’s scheme.

Churches in Lagan Valley were due to hold a hustings event, but it seems to have been cancelled. While many unionist politicians are happy to be in government with Sinn Féin, some Protestant churches haven’t moved so far and are still reluctant to invite republicans to events!

To my knowledge, the only hustings in Lagan Valley took place when a number of local schools got together to organise one for students studying Politics (and those in sixth form who turned eighteen before May 6th).

Is this good enough? Churches aren’t the only community organisations that are capable of organising and publicising a hustings. Will anyone bother in March for the Assembly and Council elections?

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