This morning, Stratagem and Slugger hosted a post-election breakfast in Belfast’s Europa Hotel. I’ve tidied up the proceedings and added a couple of brief voxpops with contributors. Passages in “direct quotes” are cleaned up verbatim comments, the rest captures the gist of their points.
0825 Mick Fealty kicks off and welcomes people.
0828 Brendan McMenamin (Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013) – “New [political] stories are emerging this morning” … and that’s the story of the City of Culture bid too.
0831 Gerry Lynch (Alliance) – “There’s no inside story [to Naomi Long’s win]. We worked terribly hard and terribly smart.” The Ulster Unionist Party across the province was poor, and saying “a vote for Naomi isn’t worth it was just negative”. The swing in working class East Belfast was missed by the media, and the possibility of anyone other than Robinson winning was written off. “It’s not a good result across the UK.”
0836 Sally Wheeler (QUB) – “The real nightmare is who would want to be Nick Clegg this morning! … Lib Dems losing seats to the Tories is a big shock for them … What’s the price of Scottish Nationalist support for Labour when they can barely speak in the Scottish Parliament.”
0838 John McMullan (Social entrepreneur) – Social enterprise has a part in the national economy, but not recognised in NI. “We need a sense of enterprise in NI; we need enterprise across government. Our politicians need to focus on local issues.” Stop just protecting the block grant, but bring revenues into NI.
Updated with the video from Northern Visions (NvTv) …
0840 Dawn Purvis (PUP leader) – “East Belfast was the shock result of the night. I wonder if we’d be looking at a different result if the PUP had stood in that Westminster election!” All the polls showed there was a anti-Robinson feeling in working class areas. What now for unionism? Jim Allister got his answer with the rest of his party. The DUP need to clean up their politics. UUP voters are not happy with their alignment with the Tories. “Unionism needs to rethink what it stands for and create a new vision for the future.” “The people are way ahead of their politicians; they want to see progress.” “You [DUP] can’t play the smash Sinn Fein game when you’re in government with them; they need to swallow hard.”
0845 Rev Norman Hamilton (incoming Presbyterian Moderator) – “Massive investment in the Titanic Quarter will mean there is no investment in difficult urban areas like North Belfast … Civic society needs to start intelligent, gracious, informed public discourse so there is a basis for good public policy to be made.”
0849 Mick Fealty goes all evangelical, hoping that someone in the audience will “be touched by the spirit” and speak to Norman’s point.
0850 Sean Farren (SDLP) – “On a personal note, this is a first Westminster since 1979 that I haven’t been a candidate.” (He tended to lose to Ian Paisley Snr!) Offers congratulations to David Ford (who is wearing a huge grin this morning) on Naomi Long’s victory. Big personalities won seats. Since the day and hour Alasdair McDonnell won his seat, he has worked hard on the ground, together with a strong constituency team. “It is time we had an honest and full debate about the issues. We talk about cuts coming, but we live in a fools paradise here about the level of public spending and the level of the block grant. We need to address the issues of how we are going to stand on our own two feet more. Our private sector is supported to a significant level by the public sector.” “If we were on our own we’d be another Greece ”
0900 Brian Campfield (public service union NIPSA) – Talking about enterprise, but representing public sector workers, the last 18 month’s debate has shifted away from the system that gave rise to it (bankers, sub-prime mortgages) to the public debt and the need to cut the public sector. Virtually all local politicians claim success at freezing rates – how can that we described as an achievement?
0903 Jim Fitzpatrick – Nationally, people disbelieved the exit polls, but they were correct. It was a two horse race. Locally, Alliance vote up 50% across NI. UCUNF is finished and looking for a new leader. DUP also looking for a new leader. But Jim Shannon won Strangford comfortably – so a good result for them. SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie held her predecessor’s majority. SF have improved their presence in North Belfast. There’s a push for Unionist unity again – which is unlikely to benefit Alliance.
0907 David Ford (Alliance Leader) – East Belfast had a strong candidate, could deal with difficult issues, good media skills, and ran an entirely positive campaign. UCUNF ran a negative campaign against Peter Robinson. East Belfast people wanted something positive to vote for. FST may change hands on a tribal headcount. East Belfast changed hands on a different, positive basis.
0910 Tony Kennedy – “There’s the beginning of something happening. People had a chance to slip back to a tribal vote. There’s the beginning of people starting to vote across tribal lines” – ie, South Belfast protestants becoming comfortable voting for Alasdair.
0912 Bernie Kelly (SDLP) – Alasdair worked areas that hadn’t been worked before.
Niall Bakewell (East Belfast voter) – There’s the starting of a new politics.
0916 Eamonn Mallie (Journalists and Twitter-enthusiast) – “I don’t really want to talk about politics – I’m a journalist. I’ve had the most difficult five months of my life as a journalist in NI. People like me and Seamus McKee put the questions to politicians, the questions that should have been put. And I want to encourage journalists to keep asking those questions.” “I don’t know much about economics … and I don’t think many politicians know about economics.”
0918 Sean Farren (SDLP) – Asks Eamonn “Where are the economists challenging the [economics-light] politicians?”
0920 Bill Mannering (UCUNF candidate in West Belfast) – Wanted to achieve 1000 votes, and they found those 1000 votes in West Belfast.
0921 Paul Smyth (Public Achievement) – Finding a large level of politicisation amongst young people, but also a large level of scepticism. Parties need to do more to engage young people.
0925 – Nicholas Whyte (NI Election website) – Sinn Fein now have the largest vote in NI. The TUV project has crashed and burnt. The electorate rejected TUV, and also rejected the UUP link up with the Tories.
0929 Clifford Smyth (Unionist) – “None of the unionist political class represent the Unionist grassroots.”
0930 Alex Kane (ex-UUP Comms Director, Newsletter columnist) – Addressing what Mick called “the brick wall at the end of the tunnel” he said “The TUV is dead in the water.The problem with Jim is that in the European election, people were voting for Jim personally.” This time, people weren’t willing to transfer to the other TUV candidates. “UCUNF is completely and utterly dead. Let’s not kid ourselves. What will happen to the UUP is that it will go into a mad panic.” “My view is Robinson is toast. It’s very public … the DUP will dump him as ruthlessly as Robinson dumped Paisley.” The DUP and UUP will come together, and TUV voters will either not vote again, or will migrate back towards the DUP. Will unionism find some fixed points to work around, or will UUP go into confusion?
0940 Gerry Lynch (Alliance candidate) has fallen asleep. It’s been a long campaign. Shhhh!
0942 Conall McDevitt – In terms of civic society affecting policy … “If you think last night changed political dynamics, then in the words of Gerry Adams, catch yourself on.” Over the summer, unionism will develop a consensus position. In reaction, Sinn Fein will try to too. “We [SDLP] will have to fight against that. Alliance will have to find a replacement for Naomi Long now she is in Westminster. SDLP will have to replace big names too.” Jobs (four letter word) will remain SDLP’s watchword for next year’s elections. “I’d love civil society to seize the small opportunity this morning to get angry to make a change. But you only have until Christmas.”
0948 Alex Kane strongly suggests that people are comfortable living in tribal circles and voting along tribal lines.
0950 Norman Hamilton reacts saying “As an upfront avowedly churchman, if we – and I mean all of us – if we back away from active involvement in discourse … with the political people we elect, we are back to tribalism.” Tells Alex Kane to go home and lie down.
0953 Mick plugs listenderry.org to hear individual voices.
0954 Aideen McGinley (Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 ) – Astounded at the ideas that are coming forward in Derry. Two tenets of the bid – joy and celebration, as well as purposeful inquiry. Creating platforms for mature debate. Behind the scenes, Belfast graciously helped set aside it’s bid for City of Culture – a big step given the normal Belfast/Derry relationship. Getting agreement to use the dual Derry~Londonderry name, and for nationalists to go forward for a UK city designation …those are significant small steps forward.
This morning has been another small pebble in the pond.
0959 Mick wraps up. The Greek situation has dangers as it shifts across Europe. Big thank you to Stratagem. Some thoughts on new media. The end.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about, reports from, live-tweets and live-streams civic, academic and political events and conferences. He delivers social media training/coaching; produces podcasts and radio programmes; is a FactCheckNI director; a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland; and a member of the Corrymeela Community.