A century since Markievicz MP – are we much further on?

In the lead-up to the Assembly election I looked at the potential gender representation of the cohort returning to the Hill. A record 27 out of 90 Assembly members (30%) were returned. From looking at the 18 constituencies there are 12 seats that will be not be filled by female candidates. This is due, in most cases, to the almost certain re-election of incumbents or that the nearest challenger is another man. Countess Markievicz was of course the first woman … Read more

Where is her cunning?

In the last few months Arlene Foster has developed a habit of surprising us when we least expect it. And now that ‘blonde-gate’, or whatever you want to call ‘that’ interview on the greens of Hillsborough, is fading from the corporate media memory its worth a little further analysis. In response the DUP deployed the usual suspects to shout down the reaction to the former First Minster’s interview with Niamh Horan. Sammy Wilson said that  “Michelle O’Neill is blonde, unless … Read more

The inevitable conclusion to the abstention debate.

In 2015 there were numerous news stories and debates about the possibility of Sinn Féin ending its abstentionist policy partly fuelled by a belief that the election might produce a hung parliament. This time around the airing of those arguments have lessened significantly. The polls predict a Tory majority. However the SDLP believe its still a republican weak spot to target every time a Westminster election is called. An area that puts clear blue water between the two parties. In … Read more

Elections becoming a big business for Facebook

Social media is increasingly becoming more important in the fighting of elections. Political parties can post videos or short picture messages with slogans and then, for a price, insert that on the newsfeed of groups according to location, age, gender, etc. If candidates hit the right nerve with the public they can crowd source enough money to run their campaign within a day. It’s less intrusive than phone canvassing (which never really took off here) and besides more and more … Read more

‘The Fearghal McKinney effect’

There obviously won’t be any pact between the SDLP and Sinn Féin anytime soon and the latest comments from Michelle O’Neill and Colum Eastwood reaffirm their party positions. Eastwood is keeping one eye to the unionist voters in Foyle and especially South Down that will be considering voting strategically for his party to keep Sinn Féin out. A pact with republicans may scare the horses. No pact is good news for the SDLP in South Down and Foyle, less so … Read more

Tory momentum won’t sweep away call for IndyRef2

The results are in and the Local Government outcomes in Scotland, Wales and (much of) England are no great surprise. Beyond Hadrian’s Wall Labour lost their majority on Glasgow City Council after nearly 40 years dominance. Well over 100 Scottish council seats turned Conservative blue, the majority of which were previously rose-red. There are two competing Indyref2 narratives in Scotland at the moment. One that the Tory revival is somehow a defeat for the SNP and their call for a … Read more

Without an anti Brexit pact United Unionism will win this election

The move towards a DUP-UUP pact for the Westminster has already begun and, depending on how far the two parties are willing to go and the absence of any other pacts this could be a good election for unionism in terms of the total number of MPs returned. A successful unionist pact could deliver as many as 11 out of the 18 seats, their best joint return in 20 years. It could also see the return of 3 Unionist MPs … Read more

Presidential voting rights by 2025?

With the recent stepping up of debate about a Border Poll and the constitutional future of the north it is interesting (though I suspect coincidental) timing to see the Taoiseach Enda Kenny announce that a referendum will be held on the right of Irish citizens abroad and in the north to vote in future Presidential elections. The decision was agreed by Cabinet last week and momentous as this may be I suspect that it will come too late for the next poll … Read more

Could next week see a break through in women in the Assembly?

So will next week’s poll see the breaking of more glass ceilings for female representation in the Assembly?  Time will tell. But as we political nerds have fun tallying the possible final outcomes for political parties we should also look at potential gender outcomes. Foyle (0/1) Surprisingly Derry has only one female candidate placed to be in with a shout. Elisha McCallion the former Mayor of Derry and Strabane has a good profile in the city and has a reputation … Read more

Does it benefit nationalist parties to retain the Petition of Concern?

The Petition of Concern currently requires 30 signatures from nationalist or unionist MLAs respectively to be triggered. With the reduction in the number of legislators to 90 Sinn Féin can no longer reach the magic number 30 on their own (unless the bar of 30 is reduced). Therefore is it really such a big leap to have a weighted majority mechanism set at a level that requires the support of at least one of the nationalist parties? With Jim Allister (and … Read more

The rise or fall of People Before Profit

The 2017 Assembly Election has not come at a good time for People before Profit. After making their Assembly breakthrough last year the party was looking forward to using the 5 years until 2021 as an opportunity to build a party infrastructure and establish a media profile which it was doing reasonably well at until the plug was pulled on the institutions. Incumbency is always an advantage at election time and a number of new MLAs including the Greens’ Clare Bailey … Read more

Time to affirm the equality of the offices of First and deputy First Minister?

‘Only the DUP stands in the way of a Sinn Féin First Minister’ exclaims a Democratic Unionist leaflet regarding the forthcoming Assembly election. It comes complete with a bar graph that shows a small 5 percentage margin between the two parties. At first glance one would think that it referred to the number of seats each party holds – which of course shows a much wider gap of 10 seats. This is of course crude dog-whistle politics. And it works. Last … Read more

Election an opportunity to break more glass ceilings

Just eight months ago we were celebrating the fact that the number of female legislators had increased by 50%. 30 women were elected compared to 20 in the 2011 elections. 28% of the 108 member legislature compared to 19% in the previous mandate. The Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin welcomed the change : “While we still have a long way to match the 51% of the population who are female, this is nonetheless a significant rate of progress.” If one looks at … Read more

D-Day brought forward? Inquiry or Investigation? Will it matter?

After the First Minister gave an initial curt ‘No’ to Sinn Féin’s draft paper for an Independent investigation she has now given a more detailed and lukewarm response to the proposals: “However, with the exception of the issue of stepping aside, we believe that the proposals provided to us by Sinn Fein on Thursday and published by them today provide a basis for taking an investigation forward.“Officials have raised a number of technical issues in relation to the proposals, however … Read more

An opportunity for Claire Sugden

In yet another excellent piece for the Newsletter  Sam McBride highlights the fact that Claire Sugden, it appears, has the ability to call a public inquiry on RHI under the Inquiries Act 2005. Up until this point the East Derry MLA has managed to avoid much of the media focus that has engulfed other Executive parties. With the Attorney General’s Office making it clear that he cannot set up an investigation into the ‘Cash for Ash’ scheme it does appear … Read more

What would the Assembly look like if weighted majority voting had been introduced?

What would the Assembly look like if weighted majority voting had been introduced? With the present RHI scandal throwing up another problem with the system there have been some calls for a ‘public conversation’ on future reform. In the (original) Assembly & Executive Reform (Assembly Opposition) Bill John McCallister  brought forward cross-community support and the petition of concern would have been removed. He had proposed a minimum percentage of 60% as a weighted majority threshold. First lets see how the … Read more

All I want for Christmas is a better road to Belfast

As a Saffron now living west of the Bann all I really want for Christmas is the upgrading of the A6. Which Christmas though? Being a heavy commuter of some years I know how hours spent in a car with just coffee and bad podcasts can affect quality of life, time spent with family and general health and wellbeing. Public transport with WiFi helps but any time that can be knocked off bus or car journey times would be a … Read more

Foster hits a Good Friday Agreement nerve…

Another string to add to the First Minister’s bow. By proceeding with today’s statement to the Assembly, without the consent of the deputy First Minister, the First Minister is arguably in breach of the Ministerial Code’s Pledge of Office. This states that she must: “observe the joint nature of the office of First Minister and deputy First Minister.” By making a speech unagreed by McGuinness the First Minister has undermined the jointery of the Executive office and the principle of … Read more

Be nice to people on your way up…

Everyone will be watching Nolan Live tonight with bated breath (and popcorn). What will Jonathan Bell say? Will he produce documents and materials that will amount to a de facto ‘smoking gun’? The SDLP has said that they will table a motion of no confidence in the First Minister on Monday. People before Profit have organised ‘Arlene must go’ rallies for tomorrow and their timing (whilst fluky) is perfect given that people will be presumably reeling from tonight’s interview with … Read more

When should a politician resign?

When should a politician resign? What is the bar for a politician to resign from Ministerial or public office? Firstly the trend in regard to leaders and major referendums is the most clear cut. Alex Salmond lost the Scottish Independence Referendum, he resigned as First Minister. David Cameron lost the EU Referendum, he resigned as Prime Minister. Matteo Renzi lost his referendum on  constitutional reform and he resigned as Italian PM. We haven’t had a referendum specific to the north … Read more