NI21 has made much of its fresh approach to politics but a novel decision by leader Basil McCrea yesterday appeared to backfire.
The new party, which has been complaining that it has not been getting enough television coverage, yesterday had its one chance on the BBC to debate local government.
Production staff were expecting Basil McCrea to represent his party as BBC rules meant that Tina McKenzie could not take part in the local government debate because she is also the party’s European election candidate.
With representatives of other smaller parties —UKIP, TUV and the Green Party — in place, there was still no sign of Mr McCrea with 10 minutes to the programme going live.
Eventually, with presenter Mark Carruthers in his chair preparing to go on air, it emerged that Mr McCrea had arrived — but had brought another NI21 member who he wanted to take part in the programme in his place.
When asked by Mr Carruthers if she believed that the new councils would have the ability to deal with the new responsibilities being given to them, Jayne Olorunda said: “I think for me, one of the main things that I would like to say about standing for council, from a new party, is that I am Catholic; I am black; I come from so many parts of Northern Ireland.”
Reaction on social media to Ms Olorunda’s performance was overwhelmingly unflattering.
But, it was a bizarre decision by NI21 to make such a last-minute change, putting a political newcomer — rather than Mr McCrea who has vast media experience — up against an experienced political operator such as David McNarry on a live debate during an election campaign which could determine whether NI21 survives.
DUP standing 190 council candidates
The DUP is to stand 190 council candidates in next Thursday’s election, the party has revealed.
The party had 175 councillors elected in the 2011 council election but is believed to have fielded more than 200 candidates in that election. However, there are 120 fewer councillor positions up for grabs after the reform of local government.
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: “There are 190 DUP council candidates across every area of Northern Ireland.
“The DUP is the largest party in local government and we are putting forward the strongest team.
“DUP councillors are all pledged to deliver the best possible services at the lowest possible rates as well as promoting and defending the Union and its symbols.”
Tamarins and Russians feature in campaign
Northern Ireland’s political scene can sometimes seem very parochial, but two Belfast council candidates have indicated that they have opinions which extend far beyond the areas which they hope to represent.
UUP candidate Graham Craig, a former ministerial adviser to Sammy Wilson, released a statement which called for “a robust and purposeful response by Her Majesty’s Government in light of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine”.
And on Friday DUP candidate Adam Newton sent a letter to the News Letter about “the recent callous theft from Blackpool Zoo of endangered cotton-top tamarin and emperor tamarin monkeys”, something he said was “a reminder of the huge illegal market for wild animals and birds across the globe”.
Sinn Fein the last to launch its manifesto
Sinn Fein will today become the final party to launch its European election manifesto.
The all-island party will hold separate launch events on either side of the border.
In Belfast, Martin McGuinness is expected to launch the party’s manifesto for election hopeful Martina Anderson this morning.
Hours later in Dublin, party president Gerry Adams and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald will launch the southern manifesto.