Slugger Stratagem Election Breakfast – what they’re talking about this morning

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.

David Ford watching Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg speaking on BBC News election programme

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 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.

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  • Dukeofa

    I agree with John McMullan. However Invest NI and DETI need to look at more than just those businesses that have the potential for huge growth and exporting. There are literally hundreds of young people out there who aren’t able to get the support they need through any schemes they provide especially financial support. These are young people who the banks would laugh at but who could have a solid business enterprise which not only provides them and others with employment but can bring money into their communities. Why does this government throw money at schemes that don’t hit at the heart of the issues especiallky for young people

  • Now that the dust has settled from the General Election its now clear that Northern Ireland can no longer support two main Unionist parties. Ordinary DUP & UUP members must now demand talks about a Single Unionist Party. There is now NO place for silly squabbles or senior personalities engaging in past back-stabbings !! The Unionist voters are crying out for a united single Unionist Party and now is the right time to start the process with a both Unionist Leaders in trouble we must clear the decks and move forward United and Strong to maintain the Union.


  • sbelfastunionist

    I agree with David Ford that Trevor Ringland’s campaign was more negative but please lets not pretend that Naomi ignored the personal issues affecting Robinson. At the back of her leaflets she had a graph based on the Assembly elections which said “Its Naomi or Robinson” . That’s negative campaigning giving them something to vote against rather than for is it not?

  • the.digger.notes

    Attended the election aftermath event this morning and entered the political bubble that is Slugger. Shocked to hear ‘independent journalist’ Eamonn Mallie condemning Northern Ireland workers for staging protests after NIPSA General Secretary Brian Campfield spoke of how the main stream media seem to have taken amnesia pills as to who is to blame for the current financial crisis.
    Mallie said the unions should not have their members on the streets as it was ‘unpatriotic’ in these times. Sorry, Eamonn we have a process on industrial action to protect jobs, pay and terms and conditions – it’s called democracy. Workers are not dragged onto the streets they vote for the action they decide to take.
    Last night Northern Ireland got rid of the Tory blow-ins who bought up the Ulster Unionists with a cheque – but as the saying goes there’s nothing worse than an Irish Tory – he’ll do a better job of keeping the natives down then the English can!

  • Brian Walker

    Nick Clegg has just repeated his view that the party with most seats and most votes has the initiative, i.e. the Conservatives.. He is inviting Cameron to make him an offer on electoral refrom. Clegg’s move suggests that any DUP deal will recede at least for the moment.
    Cameron could offer a referendum without supporting AV or PR and without making it an issue of confidence for the survival fo his minority gov. He might have to do that as many, perhaps most Tories MPs are opposed to electoral reform.
    Brown would offer more, but with what result? Lab and LD together plus, 1 Green, 3 SDLP, Naomi and Sylvia are unlikely to add up to more votes that the Tories alone. T o put a Lab led rainbow coaltion over the top,the SNP would have to eat their words – not impossible, but looking thin.
    Certainly it looks tight. We should know the final figures minus FST I suppose by early pm.

    The Clegg move is what will probably drive the agenda for the next couple of days. A deal with the DUP and/or that Nats over shielding S,W and NI from future spending cuts is far less attracrtive to Cameron anyway. He’d face uproar from the English of all parties at a time when we may be on the brink of another currency crisis.

    For their own sake, It would be inadvisable for the DUP to try to blackmail either major party now, for fear of turning future block grants into an England v the Rest battle ground – battles which the devolved areas would surely lose.

    I’d like to know who’ll lead for the DUP over this now. Presumably still Peter, but who will back him up – Nigel I suppise.,.Peter’s long term future must be in doubt. Do the DUP want to go itno the Assembly election with a defeated leader?’
    Jonathan Powell,former Blair chief of Staff and his mastermind of the peace process this morning strongly advieses against a deal with the DUP. It was essential for the Brit gov to stay neutral and remains so in face of the dissident threat..

    A deal with the DUP and the Nats over shielding S, W and NI cuts would causee outrage among the English of all parries and impose quite a strain on block grant settlements in the future.

  • actually unionists who don’t vote aren’t doing so because a donkey in a union jack doesn’t cut the mustard these days.

  • Mark McGregor

    What a pity that this seemed to be, for some including Dear leader, the place to focus on providing content for over the actual blog Slugger is about.

  • johnno

    Mick, why didn’t you begin by apologising for the utter irrelevance of the so-called ‘New Media’ blogosphere? How wrong could you lot be?

    Adams, whom most of the anoraks and nerds on this site have spent the last six months attacking, romped home. Robinson flopped. You predicted neither.

    Sorry, Mick, but reality’s out there – not chatting to the same twenty geeks every night behind a computer screen.

    Pippakin, I’m sure Adams’ massive majority must have ruined your night. Nice.

  • Johnjo

    Actually, no. I always thought GAs vote would hold firm, I was not so sure about the others. Here in the south we take a less dewy eyed look at SF. As a nationalist it was a relief to see us doing so well.

    I have said all along we are closer to a united Ireland than ever before. And after last night everyone can see that.

    Too quick to gloat Johnjo, I enjoyed the night.

  • joeCanuck

    Does Robinson have any authority now?
    Who will have the courage to break ranks?
    Peter should resign and head off to London where he and Iris can comfort each other.
    Greek tragedy awaits being written.

  • Did I say I enjoyed the night? Silly me, I loved it! especially Naomi Long taking the shirt off Robinson. Yeaaaa!

  • That quote from Alex Kane about only having a handful of catholic friends (I know, it was probably tongue in cheek, but…) reminded me of that quote attributed to Gerald Ford: “I can get all of my black friends in the trunk of my car and still have room for the Republican Elephant…”

  • Peter Fyfe

    Could I tackle two issues? The first is regarding what impact this media has on local politics. After this election it becomes pretty clear we are not very representative of the population. Far too many Gerry Haters compared to the north as a whole. Grannie Trixie got laughed at for saying Long had a chance, I laughed but didn’t comment. What a shout there Grannie Trixie, I doff my imaginary hat to you.

    I suppose this probably arises as only those with a firm enough interest in politics and those willing to spend hours analysing the news and local stories are likely to contribute. Is this a problem with this form of media or just the general populations interest in politics?

    I would suggest a bit of both, though I should say I am looking around my own age group ( early to mid 20s) or those I would be in contact with. Local politics as a discussion is generally a huge turn off among young people until there is a bit of drink involved. Then you very rarely get any intelligent debate. There is certainly a huge gap between our own interest and the interest of the general public. With that there has to come a gap in understanding due to the difference in time spent reading or debating the subject. I also notice the great benefit we achieve on here from constantly having our own opinions challenged. It leaves us with an understanding you don’t get from talking politics with friends and family. We all know its a no-no in most places to discuss the subject except if you know the person well enough. This would usually mean they are of the same background so we are only having our own views reinforced. All in all this leads to the general contributor to be far from a regular voter but some kind of super-geek that has an unhealthy knowledge of atrocities and imperialist wrongs and not enough knowledge on economics or non-NI politics(not everybody is included there of course). I know my knowledge on either issue could be heavily improved but I am only 24, knowledge comes with time.

    In my experience, ALEX KANE 0948 is not far wrong and that is among a generation who only ever caught the tail end of the troubles. I don’t think its a good thing but there is a difference between desire and reality. Do we have to accept that the overwhelming majority that vote do look at ‘who from my camp will win’?

    The fact Naomi Long won EB would suggest voters were turned off by sleaze and the arrogance of thinking yourself above explanation. Though fair play to Naomi, by accounts she fought hard for the seat and I never expected her to finish above third. On the nationalist vote, I am a nationalist and I feel slightly uncomfortable that recent revelations regarding Sinn Fein did not even affect their vote whereas PR’s relatively minor indiscretions where punished so heavily ( I was so happy in regards to PR). Is it that easy to brush sexual abuse under the carpet?

    Does the rejection of Connor in FST, the re-election of AmcD in SB, the collapse of Robinson and the resounding vote for Adams suggest we nationalists are happier to stick to our own tribal group than our unionists counterparts?