Slugger Awards: Up and Coming Politician

Okay, this an opportunity to talent scout the talent of the future. This year there is a large new intake of co-opted MLAs, so there ought to be some good candidates to pick from. Past winners have been Naomi Long and Dawn Purvis both of whom went on to do bigger things.

Nominations so far include:

– Conall McDevitt (MLA, SDLP)

– Simon Hamilton (MLA, DUP)

– Raymond McCord Senior (Unelected, no party)

– Colum Eastwood (Mayor of Derry, SDLP)

– Barry McElduff (MLA, Sinn Fein)

But come, there’s got to be more. McDevitt is the only one of the co-opted MLAs to get a mention so far.


  • Drumlins Rock

    Kenny Donaldson, UUP assembly candidate for Fermanagh
    & South Tyrone, dosn’t easily fit either the “progressive” or “traditionalist” boxes commentators seems to like slotting UUP members into. Originally from Crossmaglen he is has worked hard for the Community in several areas over the years, including Tyrone and Fermanagh.

  • The DUP’s Jonathan Bell often gets a sound bite or two from the chamber picked up on Stormont Today … like Conall he seems to have the knack of being articulate and able to comment on topical issues as well as being personable and pleasant to talk to.

  • Ceist

    McDevitt has certainly impressed and seems genuinely at home in the Assembly – the question will be can people warm to him enough on the doorstep.

    Simon Hamilton has done well and taken over from Jeff Donaldson (currently MIA) as DUP Director of Elections but he seems to be more of a back room number cruncher

    Raymond McCord (if that twitter account is real) is a strange creature. He’s annoyed someone to the extent they’ve covered East Belfast in posters about him but I’m not sure what else he’s done bar make inappropriate comments and push the BNP.

    Not being from the Maiden City myself, Colum Eastwood seems at a distance to be doing a good job.

    And wee Barry is certainly different then most of them but everything he says (both on twitter and in real life) can be summed up as (a) I met a man in Ballygobleed and he said to me… (b) I’m more Irish then you because I watch RTE/TG4 and love the GAA… (c) them un’s other politicians are useless.

    He’s actually managing to become a parody of himself.

    Steven Agnew to be fair is a man of convictions and is quietly impressive.

    Niall Kelly on Belfast CC seems to actually enjoy getting things done rather than merely posturing.

    Conor Maskey also comes across as quite genuine.

    I genuinely cannot think of a UUPer or a DUPer who’d make the first team – erm…

    Mike Nesbitt seems well meaning but is somewhat gaff prone.

    Michelle McIllveen seems to be hard working but doesn’t get much air play

    I guess that leaves just Alliance….


  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I dont think anyone not already in the Assembly can be seriously considered. And “up and coming” narrows the field.
    Conall McDevitt is the SDLP front-runner. From being the 16th in SDLP seniority a year ago, he is now considerably higher in the pecking order. So that seems to tick the boxes for “up and coming”. Im not entirely sure he gets everything right (but he is sure so thats ok).
    Sinn Féins back to the future selection procedures (Sheehan) leaves only Paul Maskey as a candidate. I take “Ceists” point that Barry McElduff is prone to self parody but perhaps he just doesnt take himself too seriously but he is I think “established” and not therefore “up and coming”. Cant actually see him in a Ministry.
    DUP….Id go with Michelle McIlveen who is probably now out of the shadow of fellow Strangforder Mrs Robinson.
    Id probably have gone with Jonathan Bell too but the “mouth from the south” remark rules him out. But maybe for either Bell or McIlveen, the award would be the kiss of death in a place where DUP could lose a seat.
    UUP…..Im beginning to think that Drumlins Rock IS Kenny Donaldson but KD is not in Assembly. Step forward Mike Nesbitt……next Leader of the UUP.
    AP…..hard to nominate anyone here as there is very little “new” around unless we go outside the Assembly. Ive found Chris Lyttle very disappointing. Gerry Lynch would have been the only reasonable nominee a year ago but he has moved to more spiritual things. So that leaves a coterie of AP young guns. Muir, Bower, McGrellis, and I must include Ms Curran apparently. Cant include Ms Bradshaw as shes had her chance. But Id go with young Mr Heading on the basis that Ive actually spoken to him.

    So on the basis of one nominee per party.
    C McDevitt
    C Maskey
    Ms McIlveen
    B Heading
    M Nesbitt (but really nobody inspires in UUP).

    On the basis that it should be a MLA………Conall McDevitt ….by a country mile.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Er yes I take the point that Mike Nesbitt is not in Assembly. But clearly its only a matter of time. And “C Maskey” should be Paul Maskey…..really the only younger generation SF person to impress me.

  • Rocketeer

    I would definitely vote for Simon Hamilton of the Democratic Unionist Party. As a regular viewer of the daily proceedings at Stormont I have to admit that Simon Hamilton has greatly impressed me with his mature and intelligent debating skills. He is an extremely articulate, knowledgeable and incisive young politician of whom I strongly believe will no doubt become a DUP Minister in the near future, perhaps within the Finance Department?

    On another note, whilst I do think that Conall McDevitt has a solid reputation as a constituency worker and will make a good politician in time, I personally cannot warm to him and I do very much feel that he can be extremely opportunistic. Regular viewing of the assembly debates do not generally reflect overly well upon McDevitt: for example, often he will ask questions which are not entirely pertinent and more often than not unwilling to listen to the answer to his questions. Martin McGuinness recently took issue with this and indeed, on occasion McDevitt’s naivety and political inexperience in the chamber has often lead him looking foolish, particularly when he was quite literally mauled by Peter Robinson during the debate on the programme for Government earlier this year. I feel that McDevitt has successfully promoted himself in the local media (including the abuse inquiry; of which he joined on a late basis), but in terms of actually performing solidly in the assembly I do not think he deserves this title. Simon Hamilton may have a less high profile image in Northern Ireland, but he, I believe has done some very good work in the assembly and deserves great credit.

  • Wabbits

    Looking at the list presented I would agree that McDevitt winns it hands down. He is very articulate, intelligent and appears to be pretty unflapable. His contribution in the chamber have been impressive and he keeps himself very well abreast of developments. Though it could be considered unimportant he is also an excellent media performer too.

    As someone else said above, it is hard to see how Barry McElduff could be considered “up and coming”. After all he has been an MLA for some considerable time. If he is “up and coming” he is also a pretty slow burner in that case. I would imagine he would find it an insult to win an award with such a title.

    Simon Hamilton seems quite personable and appears to be on top of things and could be considered one to look out for.

    Colum Eastwood, while “up and coming” is a bit far off the pace to be a winner in this category. After all he is really only a Mayor because his party colleagues selected him for a position that the SDLP were entitled to in DCC. If he gets elected to the Assembly in May then we can see what he is really made of and hopefully he will be up for this distinction next year. His last outing (mandate) in front of the electorate was impressive but it was nearly six years ago.

    Raymond McCord is ballsy and determined but he isn’t an elected, politician so how does he qualify for the short list ? that is assuming that the title refers to elected representatives.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Surely Rocketeer is wrong. Id be surprised if Conall McDevitt was “quite literally mauled” in the Assembly.
    Is he opportunistic? Perhaps but is it a bad thing? He sees grounds for attack on a lot of issues and keeps the SF/DUP on the defensive.
    As Ive indicated before the SDLP (like other parties) fights on two fronts. The plan seems to be to win over moderates with kindness (poppy stuff) but to go on the attack with SF.
    As a strategy it seems to be working.
    SF for ten years did not rise to the bait of Trimble-esque or DUP insult and certainly the DUP are now joined at the hip with SF. Frankly they owe each other.
    And for ten years or even more, SDLP has shied away from confrontation with SF. In part th relunctance was due to the need to bring SF into the process……and the gloves only really came off in 2010 (despite the shock of SF over-taking SDLP).
    The odd thing is that SF seem angry at SDLP getting their act together.
    As Corporal Jones (Dads Army) oft remarked “they dont like it up them”. McDevitt leads these attacks. As I indicated above, Im not convinced that he is right on every occasion but he seems to irritate SF on every occasion….which is good politics.
    There is as “Ceist” states a younger element in the SDLP. Niall Kelly I dont know. Colum Eastwood is outside my local radar. But Im impressed by Bernie Kelly and Nichola Mallon. There is a generational thing here. SDLP look energetic and on occasions SF look jaded.
    As an old fogey who believes in politeness, Im not entirely at ease with it.

  • Drumlins Rock

    FJH, I am not Kenny, but know him well enough to feel a bit cheeky for nominating a mate, do think he qualifies just as much as any of the other non-elected nominations listed, whether co-opted or candidates.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Was just thinking, this is a trickey category in the last 6 months of the assembly, will be much more interesting next year when we have a new crop of elected MLAs, no harm to the co-opted ones, but should I be really cheeky and suggest this year we predict who will be the up and coming politician over the next year!

  • The Word

    Tyrconnell man, Pol Callaghan, Foyle SDLP MLA is also one to watch this year.

  • joannabraniff

    I would like to nominate the new leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland – Steven Agnew

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I like the look of Pól Callaghan but less than two months in the Assembly so a bit too early. But he does represent the new generation of SDLP people.
    Just being elected Green Party leader is hardly enough to justify being up and coming.
    But Drumlins Rock……..who has an amazing record of being right (mainly because he says things I agree with :)) points up something…indirectly. The awarding of “up and coming” is secondary to actually being elected to the Assembly.
    Most MLAs would prefer NOT to be awarded if they did not get elected.

  • Mark McGregor

    This is a very difficult category, unlike previous years none of the new blood has really achieved.

    I’ll have to go with McDevitt for creating a profile for himself and creating a perception that he is going somewhere.

    He certainly is up and coming within the SDLP.

    As with previous years, my supporting of a nomination should not be taken to indicate I actually support the nominee.

  • granni trixie

    Mick: your bias is showing again:Dawn Purvis ….”went on to do bigger things.” Really?

  • liam charles

    Drumlins Rock (profile) says: 10 January 2011 at 5:02 pm Was just thinking, this is a trickey category in the last 6 months of the assembly, will be much more interesting next year when we have a new crop of elected MLAs, no harm to the co-opted ones, but should I be really cheeky and suggest this year we predict who will be the up and coming politician over the next year!

    If you are going down that road I would nominate Bill Manwaring – he is the hardest working unelected (is that would-be?) politician I have seen.

    I only started following him after the westminster election, but he seems to be working very hard to build both his profile and the respect of one of the most challenging seats in the region.

    People who I know that have had dealings with him say only good things.

    He has made me consider voting for the first time because he seems genuine and doesn’t promote the same old sh**e.

  • Dawn Purvis. She has gained in stature, deciding to walk away from the PUP due to the UVF linkage and the Moffett killing, yet still maintaining her link with working class loyalists and unionists. She gets my vote.

  • Mark McGregor


    I don’t think a previous winner in this category, like Dawn, could be considered again.

  • Dawn is hardly ‘up and coming’, she’s been around long enough. I’d go with Conall as one of the few co-opted politicians anyone has actually heard of apart from Jonathan Bell whom I have only heard of because he got ejected from the chamber.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    The only name mentioned so far I’d agree with is Steven Agnew. I’m not particularly fond of him but he is taking over the Greens at a fairly young age and at an interesting point in their history.

  • Marcus

    Steven Agnew would recieve my nomination. Just elected as Leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland and running in North Down to retain Brian Wilsons seat. Definitetly up-and-coming!

  • granni trixie

    Whilst I can understand why a Green supporter proposes Stephen Agnew, surely it would be wrong to do so on the basis that he will retain Brian Wilsons seat, given that Ann Wilson,a great activist over as long as Brian Wilson, is standing for Allianace?

  • Marcus

    granni trixie – I make my nomination on the basis that he managed to get himself elected as a party leader and has the potential to become an MLA, surely that is an up-and-coming politician?

  • Salem-is-here

    Pól Callaghan – He is one to watch !

  • Carsons Cat

    Barry McElduff has been an Assembly Member since 1998 and he’s only up and coming *now*?

    That’s damning with faint praise if I ever heard it…..

  • Carsons Cat

    Oh and Marcus, Steven Agnew would need to be up and coming if he’s gonna win a seat.

    On his own steam last year he managed a whole 3% of the vote…. quite a hill to climb. Funny how he’s much more keen to talk about 2009 than 2010….