NI21 Deputy Leader And Sole Councillor Resigns Party

Jonny McCarthy, councillor on Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council has resigned from NI21 as of this morning.

Cllr McCarthy, also deputy leader of the party for just over a year, announced on his facebook page this morning that he was leaving NI21 as he feels he “could do the job better (if) independent of the party.”

With party leader Basil McCrea now remaining as the only elected official within the party following a series of high profile party departures, John McCallister MLA and Tina McKenzie, the future of the party going into the 2016 elections will be under increased scrutiny – two thirds of all elected members NI21 members have decided that life as an independent is preferable. Cllr McCarthy is the only party member to have been elected under the NI21 party banner.

McCarthy said the following,

Serious post for once.

After a long period of consideration I have decided to leave NI21.

I feel I can work better outside of the party.

Some people may wonder why I have stayed as long as I did and it is because I fully believed in the idea of NI21 and the need for a party that is non-sectarian and promotes the use of EVIDENCE to create policy and not ideology.

I do regret having to come to this decision but it is the right thing for me to do.

Now has anyone got the DUP’s number?


, , ,

  • chrisjones2

    He was a party of one …before the split

  • Catcher in the Rye

    NI21 is the first party to attempt to win re-election by constantly publishing video commentary on various issues of the day. We’ll know soon enough how that’ll work out.

    (edit) – I note that NI21’s facebook page is now showing a fascinating article about the assassination of JFK. Is the party’s campaigning approach going to involve publishing clickbait ?

  • Ernekid

    Not very well as a tiny fraction of people pay attention to those videos or anything on social media. Elections are still won by knocking on doors. Basil McCrea frankly doesn’t a hope in LV especially as the UUP have a relatively strong local organisation to get their vote out.

    NI21 will make a fascinating case study into how to not run a political party. They only exist notionally

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    I had heard that it was being considered on some level not to run any physical election literature (posters, leaflets beyond the freebies) and campaign solely online and via social media.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    John left, Tina left, Adam Murray left, Jonny McCarthy left… At some point the problem isn’t them… There is a common denominator…

    As much as I wanted it to succeed once, it is patently obvious that it’s a vanity vehicle masquerading as altruism

  • Gaygael


    I still think basil has a chance. Alliance should be safely above quota, and the green, SDLP, independent and SF total vote will be around 10-14% and will need somewhere to go. That might be enough to shore him up.

    It may not if deaths by a thousand cuts continue.

  • Cavehill

    There are at least 2 DUP seats in LV, an Alliance seat, and a UUP seat. The question is where the last two seats go – I would imagine one each to the DUP and UUP (after a long protracted series of transfers). Alliance and the UUP scored very close in 2015, but the UUP are running multiple candidates in the constituency while Alliance are not.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    So you think DUP will lose a seat and UUP will gain 2 seats(following basil’s defection)?

  • Thomas Barber

    Some bright spark will come up with an idea to put up lots of internet controlled digital advertising billboards on lampposts or whatever throughout the country that can be hired to the various political parties during election times and whoever all other times.

  • Cavehill

    I think so at the moment, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. I know the SDLP also have designs on a seat in LV.

    On the other hand, I have just seen that the UUP are running three here which might cause them trouble.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well here’s the thing, John, Tina, Adam and Jonny could reform their own party, I’m not sure if they find partisan shackles appealing after Northern Ireland’s first noticeable ab initio party creation in over 40 years, I say this because the TUV is effectively a DUP splinter group.
    I don’t know if NI21 sans Basil McCrea would still function now.

    Parties have to be pragmatic catch-all organisations that represent a broad demographic, a politician has some influence over their demographic but in reality the average voter is more than capable of formulating their own opinions on a broad range of matters before asking which politicians are best for them.

    My own impression from the letter is that the party did meet McCarthy’s bottom line on many issues, but it had gotten to the point it would be difficult to sell himself under the NI21 label and what it stands for now.

    I don’t think we need to attack Basil or NI21’s altruism here, they did help give Jonny his break, he’s probably grateful there was an opportunity. A lot of people don’t feel they have many options to take in politics here, and we are quick to herd them into some sort of group or category.

  • Gaygael

    Looking at the assembly in 2011 and Westminster 2015 I think there is a second non unionist seat here.
    Non unionists, (Alliance, Green, Independents, SF and SDLP) got 23.6% in 2011 and 25% in 2015. With all those in the running, and Basil, it might be enough to be close to the 30% and above 2 quotas. Will it transfer enough, or will Basil score highly enough to be competitive, I’m not sure. His added advantage is that whatever ‘personal vote’ he has, comes from UUP genepool. What %, again I’m not sure.
    It’s interesting that the UUP are running 3. That’s ambitious, but’s probably a geographic 3rd sweeper to ensure they get 2. I think that’s odds on.
    UKIP got 5.5% and bypassed TUV, where their press officer almost halved their vote from 2015 to 2010. I don’t expect either to be in serious contention, but their transfers may determine the balance of the last seat.
    The DUP have 4 and must run 4. I think 2 are safe, and a third is possible. Dropping from 4 to 2 would suggest a bad day for the DUP if replicated across the North. Holding 4 would suggest a great result.
    There is also the bad blood between Palmer and her husband, and the local DUP. I think she can take a bite from the DUP and across many others too.
    Alliance are safe on quota or thereabouts. Trevor Lunn has good profile and improved their result in Westminster when he was close to Redpath (surprisingly not selected by UUP) for 2nd.
    The SDLP and SF don’t feature here. SDLP will be on damage limitation. Eastwood has not mentioned any gains (unlike the Doctor) and this would be on their ‘very lucky’ pile if they had a set of plausible gains.
    Alliance could be cheeky and run a second. With a similar result here as in East Antrim. Preferably a woman. Previous form may suggest otherwise.
    I think the last seat is between Basil and a third DUP. Early odds suggest that Basil could hold.
    Hale, Poots, Givan and Craig must be nervous. Let’s see who the DUP announce.

  • mjh

    The fact that the UUP are running three candidates demonstrates that they themselves do not believe that they have any chance of winning two seats. Instead they believe one is safe and are running the other two in order to maximise their First Preference vote score.

    The party scored 1.4 quotas (with Basil) in 2011. Although the Local Government elections in 2014 were generally good for them, they made no progress in the Lagan Valley District Electoral Areas. Earlier this year in Westminster they slumped to a level equivalent to just 1.1 quotas.

    If the SDLP have designs on a seat here it is hard to see why. The total nationalist vote in 2011 was two thirds of a quota. It was the same in 2014. And the same again in 2015. And there are few transfers available. In 2011 they accumulated 169 transfers from other parties, and lost 169 when SF was eliminated.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You don’t think people who are TUV/UKIP voters will ignore Basil’s apparent liberalism and instead opt for his opposition support?

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think they had a Lagan Valley seat with Patricia Lewsley (correct me if I’m wrong) under a different boundary and demographic.

    Certainly if the SDLP were looking to broaden its appeal or shift the party into a new direction Lagan Valley would be a good place to start.

    It might even be suggested if the SDLP were to say commit to opposition that UUP voters “may” be a bit more generous with their transfers in the Armagh and Down seats.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Oh silly … did you forget Russel Brand?

  • Kevin Breslin

    My apologies to the Women’s Coalition by the way.

    Feel free to mention other homegrown parties from here that weren’t some other party’s splinter group in that period since the SDLP, Alliance and the DUP entered the field.

  • mjh

    Perfectly right Kevin. The SDLP had a seat there in 2003, when the total nationalist vote was 1.1 quotas. They lost it in 2007 to SF, and the nationalist share rose to 1.3 quotas. But as you say the boundary changed in 2010 when parts of the constituency were moved into West Belfast.

    The problem for the SDLP here is that there just are not enough Alliance or Green transfers around to give them a hope of gaining a seat. It would take a total electoral sea change to see enough UKIP, TUV or UUP voters transferring to the SDLP rather than to each other to put an SDLP nose in front. NI politics would have been rewritten.

    Only a total Alliance collapse could give the SDLP a seat, but the current has been flowing the other way lately.

  • Gaygael

    Yes. I do. Hence my call that the last seat is between dup and basil.

  • Gaygael

    To be frank, if he is looking an EVIDENCE based policy non sectarian party, there are obvious choices!

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    I’ve discussed this with NI21 members previously…the party has (had) a future, if basil departed and it became a young-startup party of engaged non sectarian individuals who could say “we found this party lying broken and battered in the gutter and we’ve picked it up, put it back together, hacked it into a modern realistic party and we’re good to go”

    Instead it is hamstrung by its (short) past. Whatever the reason, wherever the blame lies…. It is tainted currently and forever more, it needs a clean break from its 2014.incarnation

  • Kevin Breslin

    If he wanted any evidence from a party he could look for the third party to give a witness statement.

  • Granni Trixie

    Newsflash:did Johnny resign from the Party because he wasn’t asked to go to Tina’s party?
    (Based on story in today’s Newsletter which reported that whilst the resignation announcement was being made -shock horror- Basil was in Tina’s ‘partying’. Being technically challenged cannot gve the link but hopefully somebody here will do so).

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Basil has a chance but I think it’s more likely that he will blow it.

    If I were Basil I’d scrape together my remaining supporters, start printing off loads of leaflets and spend every spare moment between now and May canvassing every single household in that constituency.

    But that’s too much like hard work, so instead Basil will content himself with sitting at home making videos about current events in the manner of a video-blogger. If you want to win an election outside of the tribal extremes, it has to be a two-way process, not a daily home-made PPB.

  • Chingford Man

    Is Basil McCrea really as superficial as he appears? Who else would post a video of himself at a Christmas party?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I think the idea that there can be a party purely driven by evidence and objectivity is completely unrealistic. No party exists anywhere in the world that has this characteristic.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Sounds like another one of Basil’s brilliant ideas.

  • Gaygael


  • Gaygael

    Interesting that Tina said ‘watch this space’ about a return to politics. And that has been the ni21 lament for a while now.

    I tried to advise ni21 people in late 2013 about planning for the council elections. Essentially run a solid number of (single constituency) paper candidates but focus on a small number to ensure key breakthroughs.

    This time I would advise them to put everything into ensuring that basil survives and run a number of paper candidates to allow them test the ground and to rebuild for councils in 2019.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You mean the rebranded Ecology Party of 1981 and then effective splinter from the Green Party of Ireland?

    I’m happy enough to count the founders of the Ecology Party branches in the Six Counties on the basis of talking about people from this region co-forming a broader all-Ireland party originally. That’s ab initio, I won’t count UKIP NI because it itself was a rebranded Referendum party and it is questionable if there was any major NI involvement in either at birth.

    And the likes of SWP, SP, PBP, WP which were effectively splinter groups or rebrands.

    Of course there’s a broader philosophical question about the originality of the likes of the SDLP being a merger party of many smaller left/nationalist parties, or the DUP itself being a rebranded previous Paisleyite party.

    I’m happy to concede that point.

  • Kevin Breslin

    So you can start a Party with Basil McCrea!

    Just not a political one.

  • SDLP supporter

    Ernekid is right: elections are won on the doorsteps, by putting out regular newsletters and showing the electorate that you care about them and the issues, not necessarily acting as an adjunct of the Citizens Advice Bureau. Despite LV being overwhelmingly unionist, the demographics are reasonably favourable to SDLP, even in the event of it becoming a five seater. LV is the sort of constituency where they need to make gains if they are to revive. The Sinn Fein dominated wards around Twinbrook/Poleglass have gone into West Belfast and Patricia Lewsley, who made no organisational impact whatever, got 4,000 votes on her first outing in 1998, and most of them came from Lisburn/Glenavy.

    The SDLP also needs to learn that you cannot put up unknown candidates a few weeks before Election Day and expect a good result: that way you just get the diminishing passive party vote. It keeps falling into that trap all the time. They should learn from the example of Alliance’s Seamus Close who, although narky and yappy at times, thrived in the constituency, despite being more Catholic than the current Pope, because he was good at media and, indeed, I believe never ran a constituency office. The Alliance’s Trevor Lunn, who will be going into his last term, is a good guy, if somewhat eccentric and has nothing like the profile of Close. Also, Trevor has no obvious successor.

    It’s unpopular to say so, but many of the people who bring their problems to a politician’s office lead lives of constant personal pressure, mostly due to endemic poverty, etc., often bring their problems to several politicians at the same time in the hope of finding one who can solve them and on Election Day actually voting is the least of their concerns. If effectiveness at doing constituency work was the yardstick of a politician’s electoral appeal, Joe Hendron would have held on to West Belfast in 1997. Another thing, the last seat, maybe two seats, in a six seater can be won by candidates with considerably less than a quota.

  • Gaygael

    I agree. I capitalised because Johnny did.
    It may give an indication of where he will end up.

  • mjh

    NI21 is finished. There is no point in anyone wasting their time on planning for 2019. Basil’s best chance is probably to put a brave face on it and wind the party up. The brand is so damaged that the longer he clings to it the more ridiculous he will look.

    He should praise the heroic efforts to bring about change by wonderful, selfless and dedicated people. Say how proud and privileged he feels to have been able to work with them – but sadly and reluctantly have to recognise that the change that they strove for will not be achieved by NI21. He hopes that they will continue to work for a better NI in whatever way they chose. He himself is going to focus exclusively on Lagan Valley and will therefor stand as a truly free Independent – truly free to represent all the people equally.

    Then as Catcher has already said he needs to get on the doorsteps during every daylight hour from now to May.

    Outside Lagan Valley any remaining NI21 supporters would be better advised to put their political energies into alternative parties.

  • mjh

    My guess is that it will be a token SDLP campaign in Lagan Valley. Anyone prepared to leaflet or canvass will be asked to do so up the road in South and West Belfast to defend the party’s seats under threat there.

  • SDLP supporter

    That may well be the case, but the road is open for a savvy local SDLP candidate who reads and absorbs the 2011 census data! Even if s/he fails in 2016, they’ll get a result in 2020. The days of pulling people in from other constituencies, say North and South Belfast, to work in West Belfast, are long gone. To be fair to Big Al and Alban, I watched them sacrifice their own chances in 1983, 1987 and 1992 to West Belfast. Political salvation in any constituency comes from within.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    If only saying “watch this space” could be taken to mean that a group of people who have no clue and no idea about political campaigning or how to run a political party could possibly amount to anything in local politics.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    nothing to disagree with there .. although I’d add that politicians at least feel that the “citizens advice bureau” stuff you mention is part of their role. SF used to call their constituency offices “advice centres” and if you look across social media at the moment you’ll see MLAs and councillors all jostling to be seen to be supporting efforts to mitigate the flooding problems. One particular MLA, whom I will be charitable and won’t name, took to twitter to inform everyone of their noble efforts to distribute food hampers just before Christmas.

    I’d much rather MLAs focussed on legislating and holding the government to account. They have a role when public services to deal with floods, water outages or poverty are not working correctly. But that role should principally be about fixing those bodies so that they work properly in future.

  • tmitch57

    The DUP only existed for two years under a previous name. The SDLP was the merger of two small socialist/labor parties and a small nationalist party that was the opposition to the Nationalist Party.

  • Gaygael

    There isn’t much to disagree with there.
    However, I think there are people who still belive in the ni21 project, and that’s how I would suggest its best means of survival. Or not if the electorate reject them.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well Basil is pretty much the only experienced politician they got, he gave a few people their first or sometimes second shot at being elected. At the end of the day if they are to maintain being a party they need to do all the thankless things such as fundraising, planning events, and having organisation and displine to ensure they have common causes. A lot of party workers need to ensure it can

    Politics without elected experience you can be left simply being a media profile like Paul McFadden, or possibly a Jamie Bryson/Willie Frazier.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    A non sectarian pro UK party with members across NI, is the only goer for the future. It was a confirmation of the requirement to dump all current politicians, when we saw how they couldn’t even structure a meeting in NI21.
    The idea is sound. It just needs a compitant person to implement it.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Since Mike’s been elected and John McAllister left the party have the UUP appointed their own Deputy Leader yet?

  • Kevin Breslin

    I see no evidence of that.

  • chrisjones2

    Is being ‘experienced’ as a politician here not a taint from the start

    Look where experience got us

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well, I have noted how hard we can be on inexperience as well in this society. Perhaps “Life-experienced” would be a better adjective to get at what I am talking about.