Mr Ó Muilleoir goes to Stormont, Mr Maskey goes to the West.

From the Anderstown News Twitter feed tonight

The former Lord Mayor, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir will replace Alex Maskey as the Sinn Fein MLA for South Belfast, with Maskey moving over to West Belfast to take over from Sue Ramsey.

It is also reported that Ó Muilleoir will stand for the South Belfast seat in 2015, which will certainly put the seat at risk for the SDLP as Ó Muilleoir performed well in the Balmoral ward at the last local elections. Then, you also have the old ticking time bomb for the SDLP of can a party leader double job or lead the party from Westminster?

Either way at a time of critical economic debates for Sinn Fein, Ó Muilleoir will give the party some direction and add an experienced voice to a team that needs some big hitters to debate economic issues. If the party can place him in an economic committee to allow him to build up that critical experience, he will almost certainly end up in the Executive in the not too distant future.


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  • Ernekid

    I like Mairtín a lot. He did a fantastic job as Lord Mayor and will be a strong assest on the Sinn Fein bench.

    If he runs next year in S.Belfast I might give him a vote, I’d never normally vote SF but O Muilleoir is a hell of a lot better than Dr. Doom.

    If McDonnell lost South Belfast It might give the SDLP the kick up the backside they so sorely need.

    UPDATE O’ Muilleoir just confirmed his nomination As Gaelige on twitter.

    @newbelfast “Áthas orm a bheith roghnaithe mar Fheisire Tionóil do dheisceart Bhéal Feirste & mar iarrthóir Westminster”

    (I am pleased to be selected as an Assembly Member for South Belfast and as Westminster candidate)

  • Bryan Magee

    The Tweeting MLA cometh. All Hail!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Máirtín will be an outstanding MLA for South Belfast.

    But I’m slightly edgy at this use of the co-option system to position an individual for election.

    South Belfast will now become a unionist target seat, and if they agree a pact there, it will have a DUP MP.

  • Bryan Magee

    I have never seen co-option used to move a continuing MLA (A Maskey) from one constituency to another. Is that a first? Is it an abuse?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think it is a first, and I certainly regard it as an abuse.

  • Tacapall

    Parliamentary privilege is an abuse but that wont stop unscrupulous politicians and political parties with ulterior motives breaking the boundaries of fact and fiction to throw mud and hope it sticks.

  • Michael-Henry Mcivor

    This move is within the rules- can’t remember anyone trying to change the rules in case this situation came up-

  • Bryan Magee

    Post deleted

  • Tacapall

    I thought all tweaking of the parliamentary rules came under the same banner but you being the Sheriff an all would obviously know better than a ignoramus like me.

  • Comrade Stalin

    dunno what that has to do with this thread.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It is not within the spirit of the rules, which were not intended to allow parties to move MLAs around for strategic purposes. SF use the co-option system far more than anyone else, particularly for this purpose.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I have to laugh though. Like so many topics, the answer republicans keep giving me is “but it’s completely legitimate”, as if doing things which are legitimate is some sort of out-of-the-ordinary thing they should receive credit for.

  • Tacapall

    It says nothing in David McCann’s post about parliamentary abuse so obviously its not abuse but you think it is and I responded by saying all political parties abuse the system to their advantage and that has somehow annoyed yourself and Brian.

  • Gaygael

    So I’m not entirely comfortable with this. It may be within the rules but not necessarily within their spirit. One Mla stepped down to relocate so that another could take his seat. Hmm…..
    Secondly, they replaced a woman with two guys effectively. Bit pish and Sinn Fein should and must do better.

    So regrading the Westminster seat, Alex Kane is on twitter earlier saying he imagines that MOM will not be on the ticket come May. Interesting…..

    Any unionist to stand a chance must be more Lynda Bryan’s and less Orange Ruth. The UPRG have already started to stick their orr in re unionist pacts. If you want to attract the moderate unionist votes on the upoer Lisburn and Malone roads, it can’t be dictated by the UPRG and Jackie MCDonald. I think Bob Stoker will also be standing for ukip, so that must be 1k or so hard line unionist votes away from a unity candidate. It may be that the only unionist party refusing Unionist pacts might be UKIP. Fair do to them. I think PUPs should make that a furrow for them to plough to distinguish themselves from sectarian unionists. I don’t think they have the balls yet but ghey should certainly consider it.

    So we will alliance choose? I think Anna Lo could win this eps eat in the face of all. But it may be hard to persuade her. She says she wants to spend more time with her sons in England. What better way than a job at Westminster? Any other Alliance candidate will find it tough here. If alliance are serious about stealing a second seat here they MUST run Anna. If she wins, they can co opt (long if she loses) or another to get profile.

    Now what now of the SDLP two job doctor? He will have to choose, but I imagine him waiting until the others have nominated and then making a call. He can dodge out if it’s too tough and claim he wants to stay in Assembly, or he can stay and fight if it looks winnable. It will be tough for him if he stays to fight. A joint unionist candidate will put him under pressure, and if the ‘selfie mayor’ is seriously running, he is in big big trouble.

    So south belfast will provide plenty of speculation until we have the full slate. Anyone any idea when alliance and SDLP meet to decide?

  • Ernekid

    McDonnell picked up all the nationalist votes by default in 2010 as SF didn’t run a candidate, He also picked up all the strategic Alliance votes.

    With O Muillieor running that won’t happen. I can’t see McDonnell winning this but I can’t see Anna Lo running again. I think she’s gone on the record that she plans to retire. Fair dos to her. She deserves her retirement. I think O’Muilleoir could be in for a shout,Mairtin has done sterling work as a Councillor and Mayor and will make an excellent MLA. He’d make a great MP too if his party wasn’t abstentionist. SF might just be putting him up there to test the waters and to use as a base to built on the next assembly election.

    I think Unionists are far too split in Belfast to pick a candidate that will appeal to the broad spectrum of Unionism if they go down a Unity route which I hope they don’t

    As for the political horse trading that has allowed it to happen. I don’t think it’s quite Kosher but unless there’s new rules stopping them. They can do it easily

  • Michael-Henry Mcivor

    Nobody is looking credit for staying with in the rules-If you never knew or noticed that this could happen is no one else’s fault only your own-

  • Gaygael

    I don’t see MOM outpolling The Doc. Even though he is very popular, and SF topped the poll in both Balmoral and Botanic, I can’t see them outpolling the SDLP here. If they did, it would be lights out for the SDLP. This is one of their bulwarks and the Doc pitched his leadership on rebuilding the party using the south belfast model.

    I think you are right regarding alliance and Anna Lo. All sf can do with this candidacy is kill the doc and hand the seat to a unionist unity candidate. But in the long run, if you decapitate the leader of your opposition in their heartland, is it the final death blow to the SDLP?

    So I think this is one of two things by SF.
    1) It may mean that SF can build MOM for a pitch at Westminster the next time round in 2020 or so, after he has been an executive minister on the progressive and liberal wing of Sinn Fein, even though the seat may go to a unionist for a term.
    2) They are sabre rattling to scare the SDLP and will pull out in time. This will go down well with Nat voters in FST. But not just FST, it’s also about Upoer Bann where they want to come through the middle.

  • Bryan Magee

    I think probably that the original reason for co-option (the “spirit” of the law, one might say) was to enhance democracy: it avoids a single-member by-election and hence preserves the proportionality of the original STV election in the event of a member having to resign, e,g, through ill health.

    Suppose for example an Alliance MLA in East Antrim were to fall ill and had to resign. If a by election were held then this would result in a unionist MLA replacing Alliance MLA. That unfairness is solved by the co-option system, which also saves the tax payer the cost of the election.

  • There’s a much easier way which was done before. Have elected members choose a couple of subs, who appear on the ballot paper with them. The advantage of that over co-option is that the subs, who have been on the ballot paper, have a democratic mandate from the electorate which co-optees lack. I can’t think of any other democratic electoral system anywhere else where members of a legislature are handpicked by parties AFTER an election has taken place.

  • Robin Keogh

    SF should stay out of SB and let the SDLP keep the seat. Regardless of the antagonism between them, a healthy SDLP is good for the nationalist project

  • Comrade Stalin

    MoM has appeal to the middle classes in a way that Maskey never could have. He’s business savvy, gets out there and talks a good talk. I’ve no doubt he could charm significant numbers of SDLP voters, who might decide they’re rather bored with the Doc who has little or nothing to show for his time in the seat.

    But if the unionists run a joint candidate things will get very nasty.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I am annoyed by everyone who abuses the system. I don’t think all parties have done so – I haven’t seen the SDLP, UUP or Alliance abuse the co-option system.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I know why co-option is there, and that’s what the spirit of it is. I agree with John’s post below, the earlier system where they had a shortlist was much more democratic; at least the electorate, notionally, had sight of who their MLA would be in the event of the front running candidate stepping down.

  • John Gorman

    Not true a large number of SF voters just stayed at home last time confirmed by the unbelievablely low turnout in certain areas. As savvy as O’Muilleoir is a number of the SDLP Westminster voters here are more on the Alliance spectrum than the SF. I think O’Muilleoir in normal circumstances could do well and certainly increase on Maskeys vote but a Unionist unity candidate would change that and I would expect O’Muilleoir to poll poorly just as McKinney did in FST. AS noted elsewhere he may be pulled in the run up to the election to help shore up FST and maybe even help in NB and UB.

  • Granni Trixie

    Come on chaps, why no joined up thinking? I refer ofcourse to the question of the day regarding SF current Mairiagate crisis: will voters regard MO’M (like Mary Lou tried) as a ‘clean skin’ and not caught up in the mire of SF sleeze. Will be very interesting to see if he toes the party line when questioned by journalists. Or will he show leadership and get SF to wise up.
    Seems to me that many SF reps are keeping their heads down and hoping it will all blow over. Dream on.

  • Gopher

    Basically common sense and all part of SF broader strategy to finish the SDLP, maintain pressure on achieving a unilateral petition of concern and not appear like they are losing ground. Alex as things stood was not certain to retain his seat especially if Alliance run two candidates in South Belfast. If the assembly survives this present round of talks Stormont will have been downsized to 5 seats per constituency and Maskey’s chances of re-election would diminish further. If the SDLP lose an MLA here an income stream and a source of patronage vanishes, if they lose the uncharismatic Dr, little chance of being invited on TV interviews for an opinion. (“SF were a tiny bit naughty but you have to remember in the seventies we were huge, John Hume was a saint and at the end of the day its the Tories, Brits and Unionists fault so no individual case can be potificated on its merits” repeat Ad infinitum )

    The problem the Dr has is an electoral pact over F+ST or North Belfast does the SDLP no good as Alliance are every bit as likely to take South Belfast as unionists. and that penny has now dropped for SF and they believe they have more than an outside chance of the seat with the ex Mayor and his amazing technicolour dream coat and a vote split six ways to Sunday

  • Gopher

    Granni everybody knows even the mutt’s in the street that despite the ex Mayor having a technicolour dream coat, every decision on South Belfast if elected will have to be refered to Gerry for approval. Can I go to Ravenhill today Gerry? Can I open a rape crisis centre Gerry? Can I support free enterprise Gerry? They want to build a new bridge over the Lagan, can I support this Gerry? Does it fit in with the plan Gerry? He is beholden to the monolithic bores just like the rest.

  • kensei

    Rules that work via “the spirit of the law” or via informal convention do not survive. Someone works out an advantage and then they’ll press it. US Republicans have made an art of this since 2008.

    Whether you think this is praiseworthy or not is probably coloured by your political world view. I think I’d prefer this be ruled out via the rules, but I don’t blame SF for wringing every advantage they can out of the system.