Having recently leafleted homes in Lisburn and spoken of fighting the Assembly election as NI21’s sole candidate, Lagan Valley MLA has now told the Belfast Telegraph that he is to quit Stormont as he has become disillusioned with the political process.
The report on complaints against Basil McCrea published earlier in March by NI Assembly’s Committee on Standards and Privileges did not uphold any of the twelve complaints, although with regard to one complaint, the committee did express their belief “that the manner in which Mr McCrea occasionally treated his staff fell short of the standard it would encourage”.
Over the past 10 days or so, a number of family members were upset by the reality of politics in Northern Ireland and by the reaction to the report. Personally, I can take the rough with the smooth but no man is an island and you have to take on board what family and friends are feeling.
I am lucky to have such a wonderfully supportive family who will back me all the way. I think a number of them are pleased with my decision to leave politics. There’s no doubt the pressure over the past two years was constant, and at times severe. It did have an effect on my health, my relationships and my general wellbeing.
He expressed disappointment that “certain parts of the report didn’t get the attention they deserved, particularly the issue of conspiracy”.
The report was unequivocal. Ridiculous allegations that were made two years ago have proven to be unfounded, but the entire experience, the delay and the worry, has had an impact on me and on my family.
The hundreds of pages of appendices to the report which detailed the testimony and evidence gathered by Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain are very uncomfortable to read … though the MLA under the spotlight strangely encouraged people to read them.
I’ve enjoyed the influence in the political sphere over the last nine years.
Challenged about erecting posters at the last-minute in an as yet unelected running mate’s area at a previous Assembly election, Basil explained to me that once you’ve been elected it is as you have P O L I T I C I A N tattooed across your forehead so it is vital to hold onto your job as seeking employment elsewhere is very difficult due to the taint of politics.
Basil McCrea told the Belfast Telegraph that he now plans a career in business or public life.
None of us want to be chaff in the wind. We all want to make a difference. I still want to make a contribution, but not in politics because politics in Northern Ireland is not working.
While the birth of NI21 promised fresh politics and an injection of new faces and potentially new voters into the political scene, the party’s strapline of ‘Aspire to Better’ was never fulfilled.
Personality clashes, rivalries, back-biting, aggressive behaviour, delays in candidate selection, a change of policy on the eve of an election, and an inability to manage a crisis all contributed to destroying the hope of rookie candidates and motivated staff who invested so much in the failed vehicle.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about and reports from civic, academic and political events, reviews cultural performances, chairs discussions, and live-tweets, streams and records lectures and conferences. He delivers social media training, coaching and consultancy, produces podcasts, is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, FactCheckNI board member, and is a member of the Corrymeela Community.