One of the fascinating features of the Republic’s general election has been the prominence – and success – of a wide range of independents.
Colourful characters aplenty will be in the new Dáil Éireann – from the nationally known business journalist Senator Shane Ross, to Luke Flanagan, ‘Ming the Merciless’, the marijuana-smoking mayor of Roscommon. Then there’s millionaire property developer / man of the people Mick Wallace, whose pink football shirts and posters and flowing white locks, brought some colour to the Wexford election. And let’s not forget articulate anti-war campaigner and councillor Richard Boyd-Barrett, who will no doubt be relishing the prospect of taking his talents from Dún Laoghaire to the Dáil chamber.
At least for entertainment value – and, hopefully, lots more besides – any one of them is worth a dozen of the grey suits to whom we have become accustomed.
In all, there were over two hundred independents (or members of loose alliances like ULA) running in the election – including 23 year-old Jedward look-a-like Dylan Haskins (you gotta love his animated campaign video – slick). A more than decent number (17 out of 154 as I type this) having been elected.
So what about the NI Assembly elections – where are our independents?
Of course, we have had Tyrone hospital campaigner Dr Kieran Deeny for a couple of terms now. And we’re likely to have a few ex-party representatives doing a solo run this time – Dawn Purvis in East Belfast and Alan McFarland in North Down. I imagine Eamonn McCann might even be persuaded to take another run out for People not Profit in Foyle.
But where else are we to find our independents for #AE11? Where are our Shanes, Mings, Micks and Dylans?
I am the Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK and an occasional human rights blogger at Amnesty Blogs: Belfast & Beyond.
I’m on Twitter at @PatrickCorrigan