Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

The minnows who are out to make a major splash come polling day

Political Editor Liam Clarke examines the impact made by smaller parties on the election trail

There are 14 parties — not just five — standing in the Assembly election and you may have missed a few.

These tiddlers all have one thing in common... they want to challenge Northern Ireland’s orange/green voting system and replace it with politics built around class or social issues.

Beyond that, they differ widely. On the right wing is the anti-immigration British National Party, which may surprise some by supporting integrated education, and the Eurosceptic UKip. Left wing groups include the Workers’ Party of Ireland (WP), the Socialist Party and the People Before Profit Alliance (PBP), headed by Eamonn McCann.

The Workers’ Party of Ireland is running one candidate in each of the four Belfast constituencies offering socialist, non-sectarian politics and increased public investment.

“It is an opportunity to vote differently. For us it is an opportunity to get a manifesto through the doors,” said Paddy Lynn, the party’s South Belfast candidate.

He believes a lot of people want a change but are apathetic when it comes to voting because they think “the big parties are going to romp it home anyway”.

McCann, the PBP hopeful in Foyle, is trying to break through the same barrier.

The civil rights veteran has stood unsuccessfully for many left parties, but he has a good feeling about this contest.

He has a couple of former young Orangemen standing for PBP as council candidates and believes he will take votes from across the divide.

“There is a lot of hostility to the DUP in working class Protestant areas. People feel they are neglecting them,” he said.

The bookies give odds of 2/1 against him taking a seat, better than for any of the other minor parties.

He is also up against Paul McFadden, a former Radio Foyle journalist who may take votes from him, but may also transfer later.

Some parties who are big fish elsewhere are smaller fry here.

UKip, for instance, has 13 seats in the European Parliament, but isn’t tipped to win here. The same goes for the Socialist Party of Ireland, which has two TDs in the Republic. And, of course, the Tories. The party is only fielding council candidates in Northern Ireland.

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