Rumours on Twitter have just been confirmed by Gerry Adams that Bairbre de Brun is stepping down from her post as Northern Ireland MEP for “personal reasons”.
It had been suggested in recent times that de Brun’s health was not great and this may well be the personal reasons of which they speak. Questions will inevitably follow as to the selection of a new MEP as her replacement. As to who this might be and the Sinn Fein strategy in selection there is bound to be some debate.
As a unionist I have no great wisdom or insight into their choice but given that de Brun was fairly senior in NI politics at the time of her first euro election I would have thought that this would now favour Murphy, Ruane or Gildernew. All former assembly ministers with representing rural constituencies or they could stay inner Belfast, like de Brun and go for somebody like Gerry Kelly, a Maskey or (if they were being really bold) Niall O’Donnghaile.
NI politics has always had a difficult relationship with Europe. At one time a popularity contest more recent MEP’s such as Jim Allister, Jim Nicholson and Diane Dodds have sought to try and deliver practical results to Northern Ireland from Europe. OK I may be stretching matters in reference to Nicholson as a “more recent” MEP but for the purposes of this post I mean that post the UCUNF election of 2009. The problem is that outside agriculture or fisheries Europe just does not grab the political headlines and it is hard to imagine any circumstances when that will change. Is it therefore a step on the ladder of seniority or a cushioned fall? That is the choice Sinn Fein must make.