Slugger Awards: Politician of the Year…

And the almost last category (I’m holding campaign of the year back so we have a bit more time to roll at this one), is Politician of the Year. Overall this is the most senior award, open to Northern Irish politicians at all levels of government, and assemblies. Past winners are Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

There are reasons why either one of those might win, but I’d encourage people to look for the new, the unexpected.

– Sammy Wilson (DUP) – “I don’t like what he does, but he does it well.”

– Barry McElduff (Sinn Fein) For being, well, Barry McElduff..

– Naomi Long MP (Alliance) – for carrying off the biggest political upset of the year with much aplomb and integrity intact.

– Peter Robinson (DUP)

– Mark Durkan (SDLP) – for his speech on Bloody Sunday in the House of Commons…

–  Dawn Purvis (Independent) – For her work with charities, grassroot community groups, children and young people.

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  • Basil McCrea for a spirited UUP leadership campaign that covered a wide range of topics and agenda … and the maturity and gumption to pull back after the result and stick to commenting only on his portfolio.

    Dawn Purvis has managed to push her private members bill through the Assembly further than some parties imagined.

    Arlene Foster’s spell as temporary First Minister early in 2010 was impressive. Despite the confusion all around, it was like she’d always been FM.

  • The Word

    Has to be Mark Durkan’s year. But I think Margaret Ritchie has also done a great job in her first year, much of it done under the radar, so to speak.

  • Patrick Edward Carson

    Politicians of the year;

    Daithi McKay
    Dawn Purvis
    John McCallester
    Gerry Adams
    Eamon Gilmore

    Thinker of the Year ;

    Prof Mike Smyth

    Campaign of the Year;

    I Love the Arts

    Political Journalist;

    Fionnula O’Connor

    Constructive Opposition;

    NICVA

  • Sean Og

    The Word – So far under the radar you would think she was a U boat commander rather that a party leader.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Tom Elliott – Ok have vested interest! but to come from a virtually unknown Fermanagh MLA to leader of the third largest party, and win with about 70% of the vote of party members in a party that seems more intent on self distruct than government at times.

  • DR – though to lose one mayor or deputy mayor would be unfortunate, but to lose two mayors/deputy mayors must be regarded as careless!

  • Rocketeer

    Without question, I would grant this award to Peter Robinson for his bravery – both political and personal – his tenacity and the sheer impressive nature of his political transformation in 2010 and subsequent desire to move the DUP forward in a positive fashion in order to become a First Minister for ALL in Northern Ireland.

    Throughout the course of the last seven months, Peter Robinson has finally emerged from the shadow of Ian Paisley, and successfully challenged the Paisleyite grip upon the Democratic Unionist Party. At the beginning of 2010, the seemingly indestructible Robinson, ordinarily detached and in control of his political environment, was dramatically embroiled in the remarkable controversy surrounding his wife Iris. Robinson’s cool public persona, and the lazy media stereotype of the man was suddenly fractured by the strain, and unprecedented nature of the situation and for the first time in a career spanning almost forty years we caught a glimpse of Peter Robinson the human being, and not Peter Robinson the politician. Seemingly broken by the humiliating nature of the Iris Robinson scandal and the inordinate pressures within his private life, many casual and experienced observers of Northern Irish politics forecast not only the collapse of the assembly and the subsequent destruction of Robinson’s career but also the probable need for an election which would result in the elevation of Sinn Fein as the largest regional party thereby destabilising the entire Peace Process. Faced with this almost ‘doomsday’ like scenario for his career, the position of Unionism within local politics and the entire stability of the devolved administration – of which he had invested so much political capital and interest in shaping – Robinson emerged successfully and impressively from the New Year debris to, as Gordon Brown’s special advisor Stewart Wood described, ‘play a blinder’ during the tense January month and the subsequent Hillsborough Castle negotiations to secure the devolution of Policing and Justice. Not only did Robinson fiercely battle for his position within his party – noticeably and somewhat cruelly without the public backing of Ian Paisley of whom Robinson had many a time rescued from certain defeat – but he also skilfully outplayed the Ulster Unionist Party and outmanoeuvred Jim Allister in the first two months of 2010.

    Moreover, he negotiated impressively at Hillsborough Castle and, assisted by his close party colleagues, managed to persuade the many doubters and anti-devolutionists within the DUP to unanimously support his position and the necessary, Stormont saving devolution of Policing and Justice on favourable grounds to the Unionist electorate. Irrespective of the unprecedented and extraordinarily pressurised nature of the entire situation, Robinson truly rose to the occasion and displayed the impressive political and negotiating skills of which had long been nurtured and invested in by both Dublin and London; and in doing so, exhibited a steely determination not only to retain his position, but to ensure the continued existence of the devolved assembly and power-sharing institution. I do not believe that any politician in Northern Ireland other than Peter Robinson in the past year has endured so much pressure coupled with intense personal and professional turmoil, and yet he has emerged impressively as a new man with new, positive and forward looking ideas for all the people of Northern Ireland, of whom he now positively refers to as THE community of our province. The lowest-point for Peter Robinson in 2010 professionally was undoubtedly the loss of his East Belfast parliamentary seat but even from that he emerged re-invigorated. Although Robinson lost his seat: a situation brought about not only by the appeal of Naomi Long and the impact of the Iris Robinson scandal but also the three-way split of the Unionist vote, he nevertheless engineered a brilliant, brave and forward looking strategy for the DUP and offered a positive new direction for Unionism, which was fully endorsed in the Westminster election.

    Who could have predicted that following the eruption of the Iris scandal in January that a man so humiliated and facing the death of his political career could so brilliantly withstand the pressure of the Hillsborough Agreement, outmanoeuvre both the UUP and the TUV whilst forcefully bringing his party through an immensely successful Westminster election? Since the May election, Peter Robinson has entirely reinvented himself, and openly challenged the Paisleyite core of the DUP in an attempt to broaden the traditional aspirations and support base of the party. In many respects, the loss of Robinson’s East Belfast seat has helped him to refocus his energy and commitment to the evolution of the Peace Process and the assembly. In doing so, Robinson – a man who has long advocated the benefits of devolution – has reinforced to his party faithful and indeed the people of Northern Ireland the message that devolution is here to stay and that it is something to be embraced and not feared. Robinson has as a result sought not only to broaden the social and political aspirations of the DUP but also to move the local political debate beyond the constitutional issue. He has sought to reassure unionists that the union is secure and has clearly recognised the importance of building a shared future for Northern Ireland via integrated education and acknowledging and acting upon the issues which matter most to the people of our country. Throughout the last four to five months, Robinson has constructively cemented his relationship with Martin McGuinness – thereby increasing the productivity of Stormont – and has made a variety of impressive speeches designed to re-align the DUP towards a new and better future for all the people of Northern Ireland. Robinson has cast aside the burdensome chains of Paisley and encouraged the growth of young and more liberal talent within his party and that is to be welcomed.

    Robinson’s conference speech was superbly crafted and as Eamonn Mallie rightly suggested the most far-reaching and positive speech made by a Unionist politician in years. This is something to warmly welcome. Robinson has since suggested that he is the leader of ‘peacetime Unionism’ and that he not only seeks to appeal to traditional Unionists and Protestant voters but beyond, thereby deliberately broadening the outlook of the party towards a more liberal stance concerning local politics. This is something that Reg Empey abjectly failed to achieve as the leader of the UUP. Robinson’s willingness to openly voice his approval of, and to initiate debate concerning, Integrated Education – a theme traditionally demeaned by DUP members in the past including his wife – and other issues beyond the mere constitutional issue has greatly encouraged an array of new potential voters who may never have considered voting for the DUP under Ian Paisley. This welcome development has encouraged many to reassess Peter Robinson. This reassessment has come not only within apolitical and Unionist circles but also within the nationalist community itself. Given the fact that Robinson was traditionally despised within the nationalist community, his enhanced reputation within such circles in 2010 is nothing short of remarkable and the result of his improved working relationship with Martin McGuinness; his gracious and mature response and acceptance of the Saville Report and equal denunciation of Loyalist and Republican dissident activity throughout 2010. Who could possibly have imagined that Robinson, given all of the pressures of this year, would finish 2010 on such a high: reinvigorated and enhanced to such an extent that many now predict that he will retain the First Minister’s post in the forthcoming May election. I genuinely believe that Robinson should win this award. Yes, the other candidates performed well this year but Robinson has come through an extraordinary situation with flying colours; proving his worth as a politician, his skills as a negotiator, his desire to modernise the DUP and to re-align Unionism whilst clearly exhibiting his commitment to the power-sharing institutions. Having spent years in the shadow of Ian Paisley, Robinson now has the opportunity to set out his own stall as the leader of Unionism and it is a stall which has impressed and surprised many.

    As a Catholic living in a predominately nationalist city I have noticed the subtle and positive reassessment of Robinson within such circles, and I truly believe that given the pressures he faced this year he, unlike any other politician here in Northern Ireland, proved his worth and his mettle as a political operator. Even my nationalist friends view Robinson as worthy of this award. I would give this award to Robinson without a shadow of a doubt. He has greatly impressed me with his bravery – both political and personal – his desire to cement power-sharing, to improve his relationship with the nationalist community and move his party forward on a positive agenda and I guess, although I am not a DUP supporter, I respect the way in which he has endeavoured to embrace and encourage others, including the doubters to embrace the power-sharing initiative. Peter Robinson may have won this award before, but from the list of nominations I think he has performed far more impressively for a sustained period of time throughout the entire year under immense pressure and doubt from objective observers. If you placed any of the other candidates for this award in his position throughout 2010 I doubt that any but Peter Robinson could have so spectacularly survived and survived with the capacity to so successfully transform his character and political aspirations. Given the fact that nothing has been proven – and many local journalists assume that nothing can or will be proven against Peter Robinson – in regards to the Iris Robinson scandal I do not think that it is fair that he be tarred with the same brush as his wife who clearly committed impropriety in her political life. All in all, I believe that much credit is due here for our First Minister.

  • I dont think it is possible to find any new entries outside that list who would stand a chance of winning but I think Arlene Foster should have a nomination.

    I will have a stab at picking the winner.

    The two that stand out in the list are Peter Robinson and Naomi Long but since the latter bested Robinson in East Belfast, I would give the award to Long.

  • Rocketeer

    I think that Naomi Long certainly deserves to have a mention in the ‘Up and Coming Politician of the Year’ category but in regards to the Politician of the Year, in a toss up between Naomi Long and Peter Robinson I would definitely pick Robinson. Whereas Long pulled off a remarkable victory in East Belfast, which was a triumph undeniably aided by a significant protest vote and the Iris Robinson scandal, she has since disappeared from the constituency and her subsequent appearances at Westminster have been infrequent and perhaps not as impressive as newcomer Ian Paisley or Margaret Ritchie. When I think of what Naomi Long has achieved this year I think primarily of East Belfast but in terms of Peter Robinson his performance as DUP leader and First Minister was impressively sustained throughout the entire year and will ultimately have a much greater impact upon Northern Ireland – i.e. the realignment of the DUP, Unionism and his relationship with Martin McGuinness notwithstanding the Hillsborough Agreement – than the mere election of Naomi Long.

    Naomi Long’s victory in East Belfast may be impressive but I feel that it is hardly worthy of capturing a ‘Politician of the Year’ award, particularly given her lack of profile following the electoral triumph. Personally I think that perhaps Arlene Foster should be in contention for ‘Up and Coming Politician of the Year’ because many across the UK first became aware of her in January and since then many have come to consider her to be a potential future First Minister of the Province. I think perhaps that we are in danger of exaggerating the impact of Long’s victory? Peter Robinson on the other hand has accomplished much this year, against the backdrop of immense uncertainty, and has fully risen to the challenge of being a First Minister for all in Northern Ireland.

  • Shortlisting tomorrow morning (Thursday) in Europa … don’t see any date set yet for actual award announcements … I’m sure Mick’ll let you gatecrash!

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Hard choice between Mark Durkan and Naomi Long.
    Mark edges it because Ms Longs success was in part due to the implosion of Peter Robinson in East Belfast.

  • Can’t make tomorrow – have to check out a school for the wain…

  • Wabbits

    It has to be Mark Durkan. For the elloquent, dignified, human and emotional way in which he addressed the Commons on the day of the Saville Enquiry announcement and also during the subsequent debate on the Enquiry which took place in the Autumn.

    It is a rare thing to see our politicians expose their emotional side. Mark showed that he is the real deal and a man of great integrity and humanity.

    Instead of spending all day trying to hog the limelight from the families in Derry (others were guilty of that) he chose to represent the people of his native city properly and to place the names of the victims on the record.

    Also in 2005 many were predicting that Mark Durkan was in danger of loosing the Foyle Westminster Election to Sinn Fein. He won handsomely that year and it is a measure of his success that nobody questioned his defence of his majority n 2010.

    If you are looking for a proper politician to win this accolade then you need look no further than Mark Durkan.

  • granni trixie

    Don’t lets forget that Naomi also had a great year as Lord Mayor of Belfast as well as strategic magic in EB.

  • Neil

    Yes, GT and she’s an MP. One would almost describe her as established, as opposed to up and coming.

  • Rocketeer

    Bloody hell, I wrote all of that and the man wasn’t even shortlisted! LOL, how embaressing!

    Good luck to all the shortlisted politicians but I seriously cannot understand why Dawn Purvis or Margaret Ritchie have been shortlisted. I would give the award to Naomi Long even though I do not think that she deserves to be named politician of the year because she won the East Belfast seat from Robinson given the fact that there was a heavy protest vote in the area and many of my friends in East Belfast have complained bitterly since she won that she has completely dissapeared from the area. Robinson, unlike any other politician on this island was tried and tested last year and in the end emerged stronger than even. Surely his achievements were sustained throughout the year whereas Naomi Long’s main and only real achievement this year was aided by discontent and was an isolated event in over twelve months of politics? Anyway…

  • Cynic2

    Iris Robinson for the entertainment value, her commitment to young people and support for alternatives to the banking system to support small businesses

  • Cynic2

    “Robinson, unlike any other politician on this island was tried and tested last year and in the end emerged stronger ”

    ……. have you been sniffing something you shouldn’t have? Just what do you think the Robbo ‘protest vote’ was about?

  • Salem-is-here

    What happened to Mark Durkan??

  • Carsons Cat

    He’s obviously in the same cave that Naomi is hiding in.

    However, don’t take any of this too seriously – slugger has obviously decided to become a parody of itself rather than a serious political website.

    Its a few “nice” people gathered around for a “nice” little breakfast so they can nominate the “nice” people for awards, but only the “nice” people they like of course and only the “nicest” of those “nice” people will win.

    The nominations and winner won’t be chosen on any objective criteria, or even dammit any subjective criteria other than it seems if your first name is Dawn and surname is Purvis you’re in with a great shout, and if you happen to be close to what these cretins perceive as the “centre-ground” of politics then you’re clearly well in the lead.

    Being effective at representing constituents, having a vision for the future or actually being able to speak doesn’t matter. Indeed you don’t have to bother your arse doing anything in many cases – just persuade a liberal self-appointed elite that you do something – and you’re home in a boat.

    Its just a joke really.

  • Rocketeer

    Irrespective of my nomination of Peter Robinson, I truly think that Mark Durkan should have found a place here on the shortlist for politician of the year.

    I would like to ask why on earth Dawn Purvis has been short-listed for so many different awards. To be perfectly honest, what exactly has Dawn Purvis achieved throughout the last twelve months of politics here in Northern Ireland? She may have felt compromised by the UVF killing of Bobby Moffett and thus left the PUP as a result but she is hardly ever present at Stormont and is actually considered to be one of the worst attending MLA’s.

    In regards to Naomi Long, she may have won East Belfast but, as I said before this victory came on the back of a huge scandal for her main political opponent and was thus aided by a strong protest vote and a three way split Unionist vote. Since she has won the seat in May she has appeared infrequently both in her new constituency and in Westminster where she has not exactly set the world alight unlike Mark Durkan who is widely respected and regarded as a first class politician by other MP’s. Ironically, one of the most forthright activists in East Belfast now following the Westminster election is actually the deposed MP Peter Robinson, who has taken on a variety of projects since May including successfully helping alongside Robin Newtown Glentoran Football Club to survive against financial ruin, so if Long hopes to keep her seat at the next election she better start improving her work performance because I know many constituents who switched to Alliance and have been disappointed by her lack of input in the area: a little like Barack Obama: a great pre-election campaign built upon idealistic rhetoric and yet no real substance in the aftermath.

    Lastly, in regards to Margaret Ritchie I would like someone to tell me why she has been nominated for this award given the fact that she has actually achieved very little this year other than stumble in the first few months of leadership whilst alienating some traditional SDLP voters.

    Honestly, is the best that Slugger can pick? I think that this is such a poor and bizarre selection of local politicians. All three have done very little this year in terms of real on the ground politics and most of their ‘achievements’ have been limited to isolated events.

  • Folks – “Slugger” didn’t pick them. 10 or 12 people sitting around a table worked through the long list for an hour and cut it down to three.