“What has changed is that it is a clear message to the people of Northern Ireland that NI21 is a cross-community party…”

According to a BBC report, the NI21 party executive has announced a policy change on the eve of the party’s first foray into an actual election.  From the BBC report

NI21 has announced it will change its designation at the Northern Ireland Assembly from unionist to ‘other’.

The party’s executive took the decision ahead of Thursday’s European and local government elections.

NI21 was set up by MLAs Basil McCrea and John McCallister, after they quit the Ulster Unionist Party in 2013.

The BBC report quotes the party’s European election candidate, and party chair, Tina McKenzie,

“What has changed is that it is a clear message to the people of Northern Ireland that NI21 is a cross-community party,” she said.

“We are a party that, in the future, will represent all people as we have done in the past but if there was any lack of clarity on that, tonight, we have cleared that up.”

Ms McKenzie said the party advocated that Northern Ireland was best placed within the United Kingdom, but was uncomfortable with labels.

“We want to create fresh politics, normal politics, talking about the issues. We just want to take these labels off and say we are more comfortable without them,” she said.

Hmmm… The original party policy remains, for now, on the party website.

Assembly Designation

NI21 does not support the continuation of community designation and seeks a move to a system of weighted majority voting on cross community issues.Under the current system we are required to designate.

NI21 is a Northern Irish party which believes that the interests of the people of Northern Ireland are best served within the United Kingdom and on that basis designate as unionist.

And we’ll wait to see if the announced change, not yet on the party website, has any positive impact for the party’s 47 council candidates.  Or for their European candidate. [And how will you tell? – Ed]  Ermmm…

It might have been better for the party to have made that decision at the inaugural party conference back in November last year..?

As it is, the policy change will only affect the party’s two MLAs, and founding members, Basil McCrea and John McCallister.  [Still short of first order speaking rights… – Ed].

But the ‘Others’ will number 11, for now…

Adds  Or, perhaps, not…  From Sam McBride at the News Letter

[NI21 Deputy Leader John] McCallister said: “The way in which the [NI21] executive was handled points to a lot of the dysfunctionality in the party. There was no agenda sent out. This was organised this afternoon; I was literally told to come down from my constituency to Belfast to do it, with no idea what it was about.”

He said that the meeting consisted of a “15 or 20-minute discussion with everyone keen to get back out canvassing”.

The South Down MLA said: “It went to a vote which was overwhelmingly [in favour] if you count that there were five or six people in the room – Tina [McKenzie], Basil [McCrea], Olive [Buckley], Stephen [Hillis] and Tony [McMahon] all voting for.

“I voted against. I think it muddies the waters unnecessarily; I don’t think it’s helpful; I don’t think it clarifies any position.”

Mr McCallister said that he would have wanted to see a “much wider discussion within the party”, particularly among candidates, who he said knew nothing of what was going on, rather than “two people spoke to me on the canvass last night, so we’ll change an established position”.

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