Two elections take place on May 22 – the local government poll (to the new ABC Council) and the European head-count.
In this assessment of the Brussels event, the Portadown Times sets out the 10 hopefuls, with the likely outcome being the status quo of Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson, DUP’s Diane Dodds and Jim Nicholson (UUP) getting the nod.
There are many new candidates – and fresh parties like UKIP and NI21 – in the field, but old habits die hard in Northern Ireland politics. The hopefuls, in alphabetical order are as follows -
JIM ALLISTER (TUV). Allister was originally MEP for the Democratic Unionists, having been elected in 2004. But last time, under the TUV banner, he was ousted, although he polled heavily with 66,197 votes (13.7%), robbing his former party of the prestigious top spot. He is likely to attract at least the same support this time around.
MARTINA ANDERSON (Sinn Fein). One of NI’s three MEPs, she wasn’t elected to Brussels, but replaced Bairbre De Brun in 2010, having been co-opted by her party. She has a staunch republican background. She held the post of Junior Minister in the NI Assembly, having been elected to service the Foyle constituency. Is likely to top the poll.
ALEX ATTWOOD (SDLP) – A big hitter in the political field, the former Environment and Social Development Minister will hope to build upon Alban Maginness’ good showing in 2009 when he attracted 78,489 votes. But Sinn Fein have grown even stronger since then.
MARK BROTHERSTON (Conservative). A curriculum manager at Belfast Metropolitan College, Mark Brotherston fights for the Tories in a province that has been arid ground for David Cameron’s party. He intends to become “a full-time MEP” in the unlikely event that he’ll make it, but (unlike Labour) he is at least representing a mainland party. The Cons did not contest Northern Ireland last time.
ROSS BROWN (Green Party). Another unlikely to succeed, he is unlikely to build upon the poor showing of the Greens in 2009, when the better-known Stephen Agnew polled only 15,764 (3.3%). A former DUP devotee, he switched to the Greens, who have made little impact.
DIANE DODDS (DUP). Sitting member who finished second last time (88,346 votes, 18.2%) behind Bairbre Dr Brun, her vote having been affected by TUV’s Jim Allister. She is almost certain to make it again this time, with pundits expecting the same SF-DUP-UUP victory again. Dodds has created her own niche in Europe, especially with the farming community.
ANNA LO (Alliance). The South Belfast MLA hails from Hong Kong and came to Northern Ireland 30 years ago. Her chances of making Brussels are virtually nil, notwithstanding her recent remarks that, in an Irish News interview, she described Northern Ireland. as an artificial state and that she was anti-colonial. This is being seen as her last election, and if that is the case, her political career will be over.
TINA McKENZIE (NI21). The chairperson of Northern Ireland’s newest party, she is unlikely to trouble the vote-counters too much. A senior executive and mother-of-three, she is a founding member of NI21, and the daughter of a former IRA man from west Belfast. It remains to be seen how that will affect her support.
JIM NICHOLSON (UUP) – The most experienced in the field, Nicholson has been MEP since 1989 and has never failed in an election. In 2009, he carried the label of Ulster Conservative and Unionist - 82,893 votes (17.1%) – and he is Europe’s great survivor. Given his vast experience, he should retain his seat, again edging into third place.
HENRY REILLY (UKIP) – A councillor in Newry and Mourne District Council, Reilly is a new face in the European scene, fighting with a brand new party. He comes from a County Down farming family. Given the UKIP resurgence in GB, he should poll pretty well, but is likely to be firmly among the also-rans here.