Stormont seems to be attracting a wider range of candidates

Morning View
Morning View

A Presbyterian minister with a high profile is to stand for the Ulster Unionists in North Belfast.

The Rev Lesley Carroll, minister of Fortwilliam and Macrory church in the constituency, was unveiled as the party’s candidate on Thursday.

At the last Stormont election in North Belfast, the UUP fell just short of picking up the last seat, losing out to the DUP which took all three unionist seats (the other three went nationalist).

The candidate who missed out was Fred Cobain, who has long political links in the north and west of the city, so Rev Carroll will have a battle to get elected. But her nomination indicates that a widening pool of people is entering politics.

Among the recent arrivals at Stormont or announced candidates for the Assembly election are Stephen Aiken, the former commander of a nuclear submarine in South Antrim, Rodney McCune and Emma Pengelly, former barristers in South Belfast, Captain Doug Beattie and Andy Allen, former soldiers in Upper Bann and East Belfast. Mike Nesbitt and Fearghal McKinney were experienced broadcasters.

There have always been talented people at Stormont, as diverse as Mark Durkan and Lord Alderdice and Jim Allister, but there was a time, a decade or so ago, when it seemed that Stormont was struggling to attract significant numbers of talented representatives. This is bad for society at large.

The devolved parliament has also, like many legislatures, comprised many MLAs who have been involved in politics since a young age. Such experienced political operatives must form part of the legislative mix, but it is also worthwhile when lawmakers include people who have experience in entirely different fields of work.

A problem for Northern Ireland is that it is a small country with a large number of elected representatives and parties. Such a combination can result in thousands of candidates for the many hundreds of local, Stormont, Westminster or MEP positions. Not all of them are going to be strong.

But any indication of a diverse intake at Stormont is welcome.