Political parties have been slowly announcing their council and Assembly candidates ahead of May’s elections. This morning, the DUP are announcing their full slate of Assembly candidates, which includes two MPs.
There will be interest in the three man DUP line up for East Belfast. The party’s council candidates attracted attention a couple of weeks ago as Orangeman and Belfast County Grand Master Tom Haire displaced an irate David Rodway in the Victoria ward.
The East Belfast Assembly candidates are:
- Peter Robinson
- Robin Newton
- Sammy Douglas
Lord Wallace Browne isn’t standing this time, having previously indicated that he was standing down from Belfast City Council in May – double jobbing no more – and instead the third place on the Assembly ticket has switched to local community worker and activist Sammy Douglas.
Described in a 1995 New York Times article about Protestants and Paranoia as a “cheerful man”, Sammy has spent the last 25 years working in loyalist communities and has a strong record in reconciliation (a founder member of the Belfast Interface Group). He was awarded an MBE for services to the community in 2003.
Sammy currently sits on the board of East Belfast Partnership and works with East Belfast Community Development Agency. He was appointed to the Ashdown Strategic Review of Parading in 2007 and is on the board of Skainos, the £20m urban regeneration project on the Lower Newtownards Road (often referred to as “Inner East”) coming out of East Belfast Mission.
Originally from Sandy Row, it’s perhaps understandable that Sammy is a life long Linfield supporter – that’ll stick in the craw of Glens men! He has previously worked as a special adviser for Peter Robinson. He was appointed by current Presbyterian Moderator Rev Dr Norman Hamilton as his “community chaplain” for the year, and is also a dab hand with a pair of bongo drums!
Both the DUP and UUP have been criticized for relying on working class loyalist votes but doing little to address the deprivation and educational underachievement in areas like Inner East. So switching out a Lord for a community worker is a smart move.
If the DUP do actually fear that Alliance will continue to eat into their past pool of loyal voters, it is sensible that they look to bolster support elsewhere. Running Sammy Douglas will put pressure on other unionist candidates like the PUP’s Brian Ervine and independent Dawn Purvis (to whom I spoke a fortnight ago).
Given his very public defeat last May – never mind Gerry Adams’ success in Louth – there will be a temptation for the DUP to make sure that Peter Robinson tops the poll in East Belfast. In a tight and over-crowded field, crass vote management could damage their chances of returning all three MLAs.
Bringing new faces into the DUP line-up in East Belfast (and also people like Brenda Hale in Lagan Valley – whose husband died in 2009 while serving with the 2 Rifles in Afghanistan) could point to a lack of internal voter-friendly talent within the DUP. Or it could be seen as their ability to learn from UCUNF (and the SDLP) in persuading people at the fringes of the party to harness skills honed in the outside world for the democratic good under the banner of the DUP manifesto and principles.
DUP candidates for the Assembly election in other constituencies are listed below. MPs Gregory Campbell and Sammy Wilson are both on the list. But the first constituency elections for a long time without a Paisley on the ballot paper.
Fermanagh & South Tyrone
Newry & Armagh