FSB Euro Election Hustings #FSBNIHustings

This morning the Federation of Small Businesses in Northern Ireland hosted the first debate amongst all of the European candidates (Jim Allister didn’t turn up and Basil McCrea was representing NI21.)

The event was attended by around 80 people at the top floor of the Europa Hotel.

The debate kicked off with each candidate setting out their pitch about what they can/are bringing to the European Union.

There did seem to be a general consensus that Northern Ireland was not taking full advantage of obtaining funding in the areas of agriculture and infrastructure. It did seem a bit like Groundhog Day, as I remembered some of the very same candidates making that point five years ago. However, some startling figures were quoted that Northern Ireland was drawing down in some cases less than a quarter than that of the Irish Republic in some respects. Although, we should bear in mind that the Executive has actually handed funds back over the Narrow water Bridge and the Maze project.

There were some arguments, Martina Anderson took on Jim Nicholson over cuts to the EU budget claiming that he supported cutting CAP and peace money, wereas, he was arguing that he was merely cutting waste. Listen from 1hr 14mins in

The other argument came from Basil McCrea to the FSB NI Chair, Wilfred Mitchell, who complained that he was not being given enough time to speak. Full audio here

About 15 minutes later, Basil left the panel without excusing himself to the chair as Alex Attwood and Jim Nicholson had done before him.

But, how did other minor parties feel about the time they got, speaking to me after the Green party candidate Ross Brown said

I thought I  had enough time to make the points I wanted to – though I did have something to say on the agri food issue. But by in large I was satisfied with the time I got

Overall, what did I learn? I was a bit confused by the DUP policy on an in-out referendum-Dodds said she supported reform of the European Union and gaining EU Funds but followed up with a statement that she didn’t really think Cameron had a hope of achieving anything in terms of reform and that ultimately the party would vote to leave the European Union.

One thing I did notice Anderson has developed a much more positive narrative on our place in Europe than any of her predecessors. She repeated five times throughout the debate that our place is in Europe and the suggestions she gave for reform where not particularly big items. Also like Dodds, she was very much on top the brief and was able to quote figures and procedures without any real notes in front of her.

The other parties-I found Anna a bit subdued on a topic that she is traditionally passionate about. Henry Reilly gave the UKIP talk about withdrawing from the EU, but he failed to land any major blows. Ross Brown performed well and was able to challenge others on the panel, as well as, articulate some Green policies which often at times don’t coincide with the FSB. Mark Brotherston, the Conservative candidate, also found it difficult to transplant traditional Tory politics onto the NI audience. NI21 suffered from the fact that they didn’t have a candidate and this debate was certainly not Basil’s finest hour.



, , , , , , ,

  • Im not quite sure about one thing.
    McCrea walked out.
    Did Attwood and Nicholson walk out?

  • David McCann

    Attwood and Nicholson had to leave early but made apologies to the chair and explained why they had to leave.

  • son of sam

    Although Attwood had to leave early, could you give us a synopsis of what he said.

  • David McCann
  • Have further debates been scheduled and if so when and where?

    Running two candidates for the ECR group (or three – not sure about NI21?) is ridiculous.

    I also wonder if Diane Dodds is still against the Erasmus scheme, which gives our young students the chance to study abroad in another EU country. My year in Louvain-la-Neuve was the best time of my life.

  • IJP

    Thanks for this, David.

    This FSB hustings is now the traditional curtain raiser in Northern Ireland European Elections.

    Diane Dodds has had a good spell as MEP for those of us who have had reason to cooperate with her, and it appears to have showed. Likewise, Martina Anderson and Jim Nicholson do have the advantage of the incumbency – that really matters, because voters are often swayed by apparent competence as much as anything else, and the incumbency helps you demonstrate it!

    I’ll not speak for Anna Lo as I’m on her campaign team and a big (and no doubt biased!) fan.

    The Greens wisely chose over a year ago. Ross Brown has had that period to prepare. As a result, he comes over extremely well – there won’t be a mark next to most candidates’ names on my ballot paper, but there certainly will be next to his.

    The Conservatives also wisely chose some time ago. As you say, where they are unprepared is for projecting a Conservative message in Northern Ireland. If it couldn’t be done in 2010, I honestly doubt it ever will be. (But there’ll be a mark next to his name too!)

    As for NI21, this demonstrated the opposite – complete and inexcusable lack of preparation. Clearly their candidate was unable to enter the debate; and then their Leader, replacing her at the last minute while she sat in the audience, had a meltdown. This is all down to lack of preparation plus the pressure of realising there’s rather more to running a party and getting elected than endlessly repeating platitudes (however well-meaning) from behind a keyboard.

    I think the PUP will regret not running in this election. It’s headline coverage, with the opportunity for local candidates to be elected on the back of that.

    As for UKIP and TUV, they seem almost to be doing a double-team, as there is absolutely no difference between them aside from one was on the panel and the other was on Nolan. The latter probably had it right, for what it’s worth…

  • Comrade Stalin

    Storming out of the debate just isn’t a good look.

  • Charles_Gould

    “Clearly their candidate was unable to enter the debate;”

    Why? I don’t really understand why Tina didn’t enter the debate.