Nine parties sent candidates or representatives to the European Election hustings organised by the Peace Group in Knock Presbyterian Church in East Belfast tonight.
A little under 200 people turned up to hear a three minute pitch from the nine speakers.
- Gavin Robinson (DUP) standing in for Diane Dodds
- Martina Anderson (SF)
- Lord Empey (UUP) standing in for Jim Nicholson
- Alex Attwood (SDLP)
- Anna Lo (Alliance)
- Tina McKenzie (NI21)
- Ross Brown (Green)
- Henry Reilly (UKIP)
- Irwin Armstrong (NI Conservatives) standing in for Mark Brotherston
Brett Lockhart QC chaired the event and the introductory remarks were followed by questions that had been submitted from the audience on sheets they were given on the way in.
At the end, each candidate/representative was invited to give a 60 second summary.
There was some audience support (in terms of applause) for some of Henry Reilly’s wild claims about “monsters being created across Europe” and such like. Gavin Robinson was calmly assured in his remarks, scoring few political points but instead concentrating on sounding reasonable. Martina Anderson talked of working in collaboration with all the other Irish – north and south – MEPs, but was out-Europed by Ross Brown who seemed to squeeze a lot more content about the European Parliament and Green Party influence there than the only sitting MEP in the venue. I suspect the atmosphere would have been very different had the DUP and UUP MEPs been present to challenge on level of influence. It was a good practice session for Tina McKenzie who relies heavily on her business experience in Europe to add to her electoral authority. And Alex Attwood obviously loves getting his sleeves rolled up and stuck into these events.
All in all, no one tripped. And while the TUV message was absent, Jim Allister may have secured as many votes on doorsteps as he would have in an East Belfast church.
The chair’s final message? Use your vote. Not too late to register or apply for a postal ballot …