Belfast Telegraph

Kennedy hopeful of a return to politics

Danny Kennedy
Danny Kennedy

Editor's Viewpoint

Danny Kennedy was one of those rare political beasts in the toxic atmosphere of Northern Ireland in recent years - a man well respected across the political divide; a staunch unionist but one who won friends for his plain talking and hard work as an MLA.

It was therefore something of a surprise, not least to him, when he lost his Assembly seat in the 2017 election, a blow he described as brutal.

As an Ulster Unionist caught between the two dominant parties of the DUP and a resurgent Sinn Fein, his was always a difficult battle as evidenced by the fact that for the first time unionists lost their majority at Stormont.

Now he is seeking to make a return to the limelight which, if successful, will mimic that of golfer Tiger Woods who won the Masters at the weekend, his first major since 2008.

Mr Kennedy is hoping to be nominated as the Ulster Unionist runner in the contest for one of the three MEP seats in Northern Ireland unless the UK manages to leave the EU before that election takes place next month. He wants to succeed long-time Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson, who is standing down.

Mr Kennedy's defeat at the 2017 Assembly election underlined that even in Northern Ireland political life can be uncertain.

For him it was the first time in 38 years that he had become unemployed, and the former Employment and Learning Minister in the Executive was forced to sign on the dole - at an office he had visited in his ministerial capacity only a short time earlier.

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At the age of 58 the former Newry and Mourne MLA found few job opportunities and, since his shock defeat, he has been working for a Troubles victims' body. A total of 19 sitting MLAs lost their seats in that snap election. Some were able to go back to previous employment or employers while others found different but related political roles.

None of the MLAs elected in 2017 have ever taken their seats due to the collapse of power-sharing, and many people in the world outside politics have called for their pay to be axed - so far it has only been cut. But there is a concern that such a move would drive many politicians to leave their parties and seek other employment, denuding political life of much needed talent.

In the meantime, many will watch to see if Mr Kennedy can win the Ulster Unionist nomination for the MEP race and if his party can score a rare political victory.

Belfast Telegraph

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