Declaration of independents?

In a conversation with independent West Tyrone MLA Kieran Deeny this week, he revealed that he has been approached by a number of people from various constituencies considering running for next year’s Assembly elections under the independent banner.

First approached six months ago, he confirmed that he has already held talks with a number of these people in previous weeks and was set to meet two more this week. None are sitting MLAs, but from what I could gather most are from constituencies west of the Bann.

“There are number of people outside West Tyrone saying to me that the solutions are all Belfast focused and people are now asking for a voice, there’s a lot of people who don’t vote and who want a voice outside the main political parties.

I don’t mean people who have left parties and then called themselves independents, I mean true cross-community independents. Both traditions have spoken to me about this.

“The idea would be to focus on their own areas but work as a group within the Assembly.”

He said there was potential to draw up a number of shared polices adding, “The more MLAs you have, the greater voice you have in the Assembly.”

“I have been approached, I haven’t instigated this. There is a lot of untapped vote out there, people are not voting. Whether it will ever come off I don’t know, because it’s very hard to get elected as an independent. “

There is of course a huge untapped vote out there, as Alan in Belfast’s post yesterday clearly illustrated. But mobilising that vote around an independent is no easy task. Deeny was able to avail of the campaign infrastructure set up around the hospital campaign in Omagh. Can other independents fund a successful campaign? Are the personalities strong enough?

The elected GP sits alongside the Green Party’s Brian Wilson and Alliance as a ‘United Community’ MLA, a group of nine Assembly members which David Ford claims to lead. It remains to be seen whether the prospect of a crop of new independent MLAs would bolster such a group, or eat into its vote.

Meanwhile Dr Deeny said that he would wait until the December meeting of his constituency team to decide whether or not he will defend his Assembly seat. However he did almost certainly confirm that if he doesn’t run, another independent would run in his place.

“I’m still in two minds, it’s a lot like the Westminster scenario, but there’s a lot more people who feel I should run for the Assembly.

A number of people feel I should defend my seat, but there’s a lot of things I have to take on board including my position as a GP. That has been my bread and butter for the last 30 years.

I would be pretty certain that if I don’t stand there somebody else who will stand as an independent. I don’t mean independent nationalists or unionists or those who have left parties because of disagreements, we’re talking about true independents who will attract votes across the community.”

Tyrone based journalist for the Ulster Herald/Tyrone Herald.

I also tweet @AldousDuke and blog at

  • Ceist

    While Kieran’s unashamed localism puts me off I do still have a bit of sympathy for his politics so I’m disappointed to see he’s been noticeably absent from the Assembly recently (the last 6 months or so).

    This coalition of independents approach was tried in the Dail a while back (the Independent Health Alliance) but never translated into any sort of real political clout (although the group was larger then SF in the Dail which shows the electorate were willing to give the approach a chance).

    Much is made by independents of standing for ‘real people & real politics’ etc. to differentiate themselves from political parties but there’s more to being an elected representative then batting for your home patch and acting as a social worker.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Ah…..I thought that Dr Deeny was standing down. Now as the crowd (Caesar like) offer him the crown of staying on, he will let them know in December.
    “the reason why I cannot tell”
    Back in 2007, Dr Deeny completely scuppered a bet I had and Im not a man to hold a grudge………..but
    People tell me he is genuinely Independent.
    Others say SDLP-lite.
    I lean to Alliance-lite.
    And no harm in that. Theres evidence.
    “this I know and know full well”.
    Theres actually a strong AP presence there…going back to Tom Gormley in 1973….with as I recall around 4,000 votes in “old” Mid Ulster. Alliance has never really realised its full potential west of the Bann.
    There are AP figures there, Gormleys daughter (Anne?) and Gerard McCaughey who as I recall were Deeny backers in 2007.
    The Yellow Rosette. The membership of the AP led group which includes Brian Wilson (former official AP and hubby of new AP candidate in North Down). And of course AP didnt and wont oppose him.
    So frankly AP can tap into broader based “community” candidates such as former Tax Inspector Billy Webb……oncea “Ratepayers Councillor” in Newtownabbey and now the APs top man in North Belfast.
    Alliance can “mop up” community types.
    Deeny DID come to prominence over a single issue (the hospital) ut frankly Id rather see him as a fully fledged member of the AP team …conditional on him not being a kind of trojan horse.
    Currently Kieran McCarthy is the Health spokesperson and if he is standing down then an ideal replacement.
    I think all analysts have a problem with Independents.they are the wild card that screws up our carefully prepared spreadsheets. Thats unforgivable.
    But is there really a great groundwell of community activists rallying to Deeny west of the Bann? No.
    There is no reason to think that the current broad balance of MLAs are not representative of the people in those constituencies.
    And the notion that there are 500,000 voters (all pro union of course) out there who offer up daily prayers for a candidate to speak for them……is puerile nonsense.

  • Rory Carr

    “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately,” warned Benjamin Franklin and so it remains.

    Independent representatives are constitutionally incapable of acting in unison for any sustained period of time sufficient to be effective. Even were they able to unite on a common platform, or even a common issue which, given their very nature, is highly unlikely, they do not have, nor have they the capability of creating, a service machine akin to that available to the political parties. Their only worth is, as in the case of Deeny and other G.P.’s in Britain who have stood on platforms of protecting local health facilities – usually indeed narrowed down to saving one hopital from the chop – to focus protest on a single, almost invariably parochial, issue. Such protests even if successful (indeed particularly if successful) never widen out into greater national campaigns for the protection of health services from marauding profiteers for example and by restricting protest to such nimbyish parochial matters may actually hamper effective serious long-term campaigns around these issues.

    In short – no party, no punch. In the end it is merely dilettantism. High-minded dilettantism for sure, but dilettantism for all that and not to be encouraged.

  • Biggest Baddest Bobby

    Such “Independents” would actually need to turn up at Stormont!

    There being no Alliance vote to eat into in the west, why do they not just join Alliance? What exactly sets them apart?

  • Biggest Baddest Bobby

    FJH – excellent final point.

  • redhugh78

    He hasnt a hope if he does stand, given the sdlp have a quota if they don’t make a balls of it like the last time.

  • Kieran would make no beans about the fact that he’s a ‘part-time’ MLA. That certainly opens him up to attack and scrutiny, but I’m still pretty sure he’s attending the health committee at least.

    But then absenteeism has never put off the majority of voters in the west before.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    With less than 1,000 Alliance votes in West Tyrone in May, Deeny would be mad to join Alliance before the Assembly Elections. Certainly he would be the best candidate that they could have there as he would clearly bring votes to them.
    But as he got less than 4,000 votes in 2007 and was elected on the last count its unlikely that he will top that in 2011 with better SDLP vote management and the hospital being a non issue.
    I cynically pose the question (I dont actually know the answer and far too lazy to look it up) but does a MLA who stands down qualify for severance pay? Does a defeated MLA qualify?
    But I suggest that Deenys best chance to stay in the Assembly is NOT to have Alliance backing. And AP will be ok with that because he effectively adds to their “neutral” coalition in the Assembly.

    “Ceist” raises the point that Deeny is not a regular attendee at Stormont. I take this point but he is much more interested in getting column inches in the Omagh papers than in the Telegraph, Irish News and News Letter.
    If he decides to stand next year then he should be angling for a slot being interviewed by Jim Fitzpatrick to make it look to the punters back home like he has got some clout at Stormont.
    The point about local interests versus broader party interest is also well made. Not only subject to the party line, Deeny is also without a “portfolio” and doesnt actually need to be at Stormont.
    I dont much care for “Independents”. They WANT but never seem to GIVE in a broader sense.
    They are a pain in the ass for analysts and obviously unliked by party machines. But they make me think of those people who go into a restaurant and cant anything on the menu that suits them. They want an individual meal.
    There should I suggest be enough on the Norn Iron political menu to satisfy the fussiest diner…….and the “real people and politics” point that “Ceist” made is really only a device that can work on “one issue”…as the hospital.
    “Real people and politics” wont work for McHugh in FST. With the Assembly Elections only a few months away there could be brush fires breaking out over local hospitals, colleges whatever but I see no big issue at this moment and no groundswell of allegedly independent community workers anxious to use it.
    The ultimate deception of Independents is that they represent “us” against “them”. Jackie Healy Rae pulls off this stunt regularly. Does he wear that cap to bed?
    But he at least on occasions can use leverage in a way that a fully compliant FF TD cant do.
    But the irony is that Independents are only valuable in a “Party” situation.
    What leverage would just one of 108 Independents have?. Parties are a natural consequence of Parliamentary Democracy.
    But surely the “bad news” will be suppressed until AFTER the Election.

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    There would be a problem with Deeny designating himself alliance, it’s seen as unionist party and the people in west tyrone who vote for the Dr are in general the SDLP voters who are let down by the lack of talent and organisation of that part in Omagh/Strabane.
    Added to that Deeny on canvass has described himself as a nationalist i dont see the AP being a home for him.
    If the SDLP could convince him to jump onboard it would be a good first step to them re-launching in West Tyrone where Joe Byrne and Eugene McMenamin lead 2 factions who cant agree whether grass is green or emerald

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Clearly there have been divisions in the SDLP in West Tyrone but I think that the shambles of 2007 has concentrated minds in the area. In many respects the 2007 election was perfect for Deeny in three respects…..the hospital issue, the SDLP shambles and the Alliance support including senior figures.
    And still only made it on the last count.
    Unlikely to replicate it all again.
    But like I say, I was badly burned in respect of Deeny in 2007.

    The nationalist/unionist question is actually two questions.
    Is Deeny a nationalist or unionist at heart? I have no idea but I take your point about what you believe he says on canvas.
    The AP is officially agnostic and claims it has a place for both nationalists and unionists (eg recent convert Bradshaw)……but I agree that in West Tyrone, overt membership of the AP would cost him votes in a way that being a semi detached member of the broader Alliance cross community Stormont arrangement would not.

  • becky

    maybe he should take himself ta fxxk same as gerry.moochers the whole lot of em is e not getting enough as a dr i watched a well known mla going through the 10p offers in asda the other night fxxxing scroats the lot of em

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    do you have a newsletter? i wish to subscribe, ive always wanted to listen to the inane ramblings of the non-working class?