NI21 launched their council candidates in The MAC this morning.
Just before 10am, a lost-looking Mark H Durkan walked through the MAC’s downstairs foyer. He hadn’t come to throw his lot behind Tina McKenzie, but was instead early for his appointment with Alex Attwood at the Electoral Office around the corner!
Chatting to NI21 candidates, it was clear that this was their first foray into politics. Most I spoke to were driven by a frustration and a desire for political change in Northern Ireland.
After a warm up by deputy leader John McCallister, leader Basil McCrea spoke for 15 minutes on the challenges ahead. He answered some questions that he suspected candidates would face on the doorstep.
Why does NI12 exist? … Because the other parties are utterly, utterly, useless.
Covering 8 of the new councils, the vast majority are running east of the Bann. Declan Someone obviously didn’t make it through into the final list of 47 candidates!
Of the 47, a third of NI21’s candidates are women (7 out of 13 in Belfast). They were also diverse in terms of age, occupation, disability, ethnic background. Both keen and perturbed by the next four weeks of campaigning and political activity, some seemed eager to get out and knock doors while others were more reluctant about that kind of campaigning.
Four candidates addressed the audience: Pete Wray (Lisnasharragh), Jayne Olorunda (Ormiston), Jonathan McCarthy (Lisburn North) and Eileen Chan-Hu (Botanic).
You can also listen to five Lisburn & Castlereagh candidates talking to me later: Colin McCord & Jonathan McCarthy (Lisburn North), Christina Dobson & Glenn Wilson (Downshire East), and Elizabeth McCord (Castlereagh South).
Euro candidate (and council candidate for Balmoral) Tina McKenzie also spoke.
It is clear that organisationally running 47 candidates on top of a Euro candidate is a stretch for the party which is less than a year old. Candidates will spend time fundraising as well as canvassing for votes over coming weeks.
Few stand any realistic chance of winning a seat, though there could be some interesting races. Could David Honeyford and his twin appeal to GAA and rugby club votes in Killultagh squeeze into the last seat?
There is certainly a realism within NI21 that getting no council candidate’s elected is more than a mere possibility. But the party candidates hold a hope that the electorate – both those used to voting and those who are out of practice – will translate anecdotal support and opinion polling into results. We’ll know if they’re right in a month’s time