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Sunday, 22 February 2009

Sinn Féin's coalition

The most significant part of Gerry Adams's ard fheis address i think was his plea to Irish Labour to prepare a coalition of the left. Political opportunism at its best?

It highlights once gain how isolated politically Sinn Féin is in the South. One can hardly see Eamon Gilmore forming a voluntary coalition with Adams, Mary Lou and co.

The news is good for Irish Labour. The huge protests in Dublin and the massive sense of discontent with Fianna Fáil represents something of a sea change in Irish politics. Fine Gael's conservatism means Irish Labour is the obvious beneficiary. What the party needs to do is capitalise by offering serious new left economic policies that will reward the likes of those who took to the streets yesterday.

The last poll saw a huge jump in Labour's support. Esoterica predicts this will not lessen in the short term. The Irish population is primed for a move to the left. The European and local government elections represent a massive opportunity to underwrite this move.

Much of the European political elite will be watching Ireland closely.... and for many it will be in horror as the sense of political change in hard economic times becomes a reality.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Age discrimination and engaging youth

Sinn Féin has lost a case and been order to pay £15k to a former party worker Anne 'Dodie' McGuinness who alleged age and sex discrimination prevented her from being able to apply for a party job. Rather embarrasing for the self-styled 'party of equality' and a rather untimely departure before the Ard Fheis! Did the media hold this story to time it for this?

Where as other parties may be quick to criticise, Esoterica learns that SF is not the only party with an age discrimination case set against them - watch this space.

It all begs the question how parties can successfully (and legally) rebrand themselves to appeal to a younger brand... perhaps connecting with youth through policies that matter to them would be a start?

A proper debate on tuition fees? More help for first-time buyers? Better careers advice? A government sponsored graduate scheme for the public and private sector?

What's more parties would be better looking to the opportunities in the new media to engage with younger people, rather than discrimination against others in the appointment of party jobs.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

New replacements mechanism

Fellow blogger Gary McKeown on Northern Notes gives a great synopsis of the NIO decison to scrap the substitute list system for Assembly Members. The NIO announcement essentially means that if an MLA leaves office he will be replaced by the party's nominating officer rather than the person who is stated on the MLA's substitute list.

All I would add to Gary's post is that the last time the substitute list was used was in May 2008 when DUP MLA George Dawson died and was replaced by Alastair Ross. The Speaker Willie Hay had to proceed done the substitute list compiled by Dawson and ask if the person would accept the role. Ross, top of the list, accepted and thus is the only current member of the NI Assembly who was not elected by the public.

Another reshuffle

Esoterica believes that Peter Robinson is shaking up for a reshuffle of his ministerial pack after the European elections. Word on the hill suggests Edwin Poots could be in line for a return to the Executive table to replace Sammy Wilson as Environment Minister. I wonder how that will sit with the green lobby?

Friday, 6 February 2009

Education blog seeks new debate

A new blog seeking to create debate around the future of education in Northern Ireland has been created. As well as listing the grammar schools preparing to set their own exams it has a poll on whether Education Minister Caitríona Ruane should resign. I wonder if Ms Ruane has checked in and voted yet?

It seems like a genuine attempt to further debate on the matter, which is welcome. My one reservation would be that whilst claiming to be non partisan its set up is rather anti-Ruane in nature. Nothing wrong in that, of course, but whether that constitutes 'non-partisan' well Esoterica will reserve judgement.

Some of course would argue that the current deadlock is the DUP's fault and not SF's.

Let's hope, for sake of future generations, our politicians can sort out something.

Monday, 2 February 2009

New leaders, new direction

One thing we have been devoid of in Northern Irish politics of late is a good ol' leadership battle. The last time one of the main parties changed at the top was the rather obvious succession of Peter Robinson to Paisley's mantle. However, the present political elite cannot go on forever, so why the hell not, as no other blogs are likely to do it, now seems as good a time as any to consider what might happen when the present supremos move on.

The first question might be, who is likely to fall first? With a general election on the cards in 2010 a poor performance from the SDLP could see Mark Durkan fall from grace, sooner rather than later. On the same count Sir Reg hasn't exactly transformed his party's fortunes, but his steady management of some party reform and his latest Conservative coup makes him that little bit safer.

Elsewhere David Ford's position looks strong (probably as strong as it's ever been) in the Alliance Party, threatened only in the longer term by the obvious political talent of his more able deputy Naomi Long. The DUP's Peter Robinson is preparing himself for at least a decade at the helm, with Dodds (Nigel, not Diane!) already primed for another seemless takeover.

The Sinn Féin position is rather interesting. Adams has reached his sixties, does he still have the stamina and political will to reach 2016? Will he want to with no united Ireland on the cards? So is McGuinness an obvious replacement? He has revelled in the position of dFM, but is he party leader material? One must think he is the best bet, but at just two years Adams's younger perhaps Conor Murphy could be primed instead, or even a woman? (that is if the SDLP don't beat them to it with Margaret Ritchie?)

So here we go. A prediction for 2019... and the chances of this blog going until then are so slim that you won't be able to hold me to it!

Party Leaders in 2019:
DUP - Nigel Dodds
SF - Conor Murphy
UUP - Danny Kennedy
SDLP - Margaret Ritchie
Alliance - Naomi Long

DUP hard liners sticking it out before comfortable exile?

Before Paisley led his party into a power sharing deal with Sinn Féin there were numerous stories of unhappy DUP members - remember the twelve apostles?

The ending of dual mandates will leave the party with an easy get out for some of its more senior members who just aren't all that enamoured with such a close association with Sinn Féin. Rather than the threat of jumping ship to Jim Allister and his TUV misfits, they can be rewarded with a seat in Westminster - 'the motherland's legislature' - for an easy life well away from the day to day dealings with abstentionist republicans.

An end to dual mandates should, in theory, see the most talented representatives stay in the regional legislature to deal with the vast majority of legislation (policing and justice should also be devolved by this time leaving even less of a role for NI MPs). But some may prefer the more palatable idea of a comfortable life sitting only on the green benches.

It is also an obvious way for Peter Robinson to ship some of the old Paisleyites out of the way. So a future Assembly could well see no Paisley Jnr, no Willie McCrea, no David Simpson, perhaps even current Culture Minister Gregory Campbell might be among the exiles?