Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Little Neros and libel tourists amid election fever

When one makes the effort to scan back over the previous week’s worth of political back and forth debates here in the wonderful land of Northern Ireland we can either sigh with relief or despair.

Naturally we are pre-disposed to relief and wistful joy as our politicos undertake a little bit of mutual name calling, which seemingly disguise the fact that there is real work going on in the background.

However, I was a little perturbed by utterances that were being uttered last week.

And, Shadow Secretary of State, Ivan Lewis, made it a lot worse when he warned about the potential for political paralysis in the run-up to a trio of years with elections.

For elections are an exercise in democracy; disguising the fact that ‘life goes on’ despite the efforts of MLA obsessed journalists...

We in Norn Iron have a long tradition of membership of the awkward squad – and Newtownabbey’s recent censorship spat aside – local government elections are probably going to be decided on the levels of green and orange in each of the 11 new council areas, as well as on local issues, such as bins and leisure centre provision.

And as the European elections are at the same time, the self-same voters can vote on local issues and express their preference for unionism, nationalism and all points in between at the same time.

All that will leave us in fine fettle for the Westminster election next year and the Assembly election the year after that.

In the meantime, the first green shoots of electioneering have emerged this week.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has criticised the DUP for not bringing Norn Iron’s libel laws in line with the rest of the UK; warning portentously that we could become a destination of choice for libel tourists. Images of Russian oligarchs and peddlers of quack medicine landing at Belfast City Airport come to mind.

At the same time, there is the row emerging over the appointment process of the chief constable of the PSNI, after Justice Minister David Ford changed the criteria.

This provoked a jibe from DUP policing board member Jonathan Craig who described the justice minister as “a little Nero”.

Ahhhhh- the sweet smell of electioneering in the morning refreshes the soul of even the most cynical of journalists.

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