Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

I'm an MLA ... get me out of here: Northern Ireland politicians to be stranded on Coney Island

The volunteer MLAs will be stranded on Coney Island
The volunteer MLAs will be stranded on Coney Island

I'm An MLA ... Get Me Out Of Here could be hitting our screens next summer.

No, Ant and Dec won't be arriving in the Assembly – instead our politicians are set to pack their rucksacks and courage and head for Lough Neagh.

Facing the creepy-crawlies a little closer to home than the Australian jungle, the elected representatives could be entering their own political wilderness at their own peril. Swapping debates in Stormont for bush tucker trials, the folks on the hill who sign up for the challenge could find themselves trying to survive on Coney Island on the lough.

The two-day trial, including an overnight stay, will see MLAs stranded with tasks to be conquered before they are watered and fed.

Winning votes and topping polls will be a pleasant memory as bog snorkelling and facing their fears with insects is broadcast across the province.

Lough Neagh Partnership is championing the event to be televised, with three MLAs and one former minister understood to have already signed up.

Eimear Kearney from the partnership promised it wouldn't be as "gruesome" as what audiences are used to seeing on their TVs.

She said: "We are still in the early stages but we would love to have it next June. They'll be rowing themselves, building their own rafts and foraging for food.

"We'll be going gently on them, though, no spiders will have to be eaten, but we would like to see them skinning rabbits and facing up to animals from local centres. It's all to raise money for Lough Neagh Rescue."

Last month the team made headlines when a Duke of Edinburgh canoe trip saw Belfast teenagers rescued by the brave volunteers in stormy conditions.

Ms Kearney explained bids for the broadcast fell through in 2010.

"We proposed it last year in a deal with the BBC and three MLAs took us up on it, including one former minister whose name I'm not allowed to reveal yet." It hopes it can raise the funds for the insurance to give the event the go-ahead for 2014.

"There was an insurance problem but we have extra funding now, so there's nothing to stop us going for it next year," she said.

It'll take more than several of our representatives to build the campfires on Coney Island – with an estimated 10 more needed to make the challenge a success.

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