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Election briefing: From job swapping and border polls to a candidate not being consumed by politics

Andrew Madden


Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

There was an interesting suggestion by a guest on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster. On a segment examining the cost-of-living crisis, Enniskillen woman Caroline Wheeler spoke about the struggles facing her son Lee, who is 37 and has a learning disability. He also has a rare genetic disorder and relies on machines to help him breathe. Lee uses a CPAP machine while he sleeps and lives independently with the help of carers, including his mother. Caroline said Lee has to pay towards his electricity bill from his benefits each week and has been impacted by rising energy costs.

MLA job swap

Caroline hit out at the lack of support provided from Stormont for those struggling with their bills, saying it simply "is not enough", hitting out at MLAs who "don't have a clue" about what many are going through.

"I would like to do a job swap for a day and get [Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey] to come in and sit on a CPAP machine and a nebuliser and see what it's really like, because for someone to sit in an office and make decisions about people's lives, who they haven't got a clue about - that's what the problem is," she said.

"That's why we're in this situation, because we have people in government who have no notion about what actually happens on the ground."

Now, there's a good idea. Get our MLAs to try on the shoes of some of the rest of us for a day, to see what it's really like. I wonder how many of our political representatives would be up to the job?

Why not?

The DUP is definitely not giving up the 'battle for Northern Ireland' stance they have taken ahead of the election, with party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson again warning against Sinn Fein coming out on top and the apparently inevitable border poll that will ensue.

In an Easter message to colleagues, Sir Jeffrey said: "The DUP is the only party that can stop Sinn Fein's divisive border poll plans. A first-preference vote for any party other than the DUP will divide and weaken the unionist cause and help Sinn Fein win and deliver on their border poll plan.

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"Make no mistake, if Sinn Fein win this election, their plan for a divisive border poll will be advanced."

The question is, why is calling for a border poll 'divisive', but being against such a poll not divisive? Also, what would the harm be to unionism in holding such a poll in the not-too-distant future? After all, if such a poll was soon called, all predictions have it failing. So, would it not be better for unionism to let it happen, fail, and then put paid to the idea of another poll until much further down the road?

Don't mention that

Delivering the oration at the republican socialist Easter commemoration in Belfast, the IRSP's West Belfast Assembly election candidate Dan Murphy made a curious statement ahead of next month’s poll.

He said: "Long before this election, we were on the ground in housing estates across Ireland helping and organising. Long after this election, we'll be doing the same. We aren't consumed by electoral politics. We want to get our members into these chambers to affect change, but they are not the be-all and end-all.”

Now, with just weeks to go until polling day, saying you are "not consumed by electoral politics" is a bit of a strange statement, given Mr Murphy is fighting for a seat in an election. In the run-up to an election, you would be forgiven for thinking all of the candidates should be consumed by electoral politics. Or perhaps he is just trying not to get IRSP supporters' hopes up.

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