Flurry of activity from MEPs as Euro vote looms

Election Diary 2014
Election Diary 2014

Northern Ireland’s MEPs have massively increased their activity in the European Parliament as they get closer to re-election, an analysis of their Parliamentary activity reveals.

Written questions are the easiest way for MEPs to register ‘activity’ in the EU Parliament.

According to the website MEPranking.EU, Diane Dodds is Northern Ireland’s top-rated MEP, a finding based on such activity and to which she has frequently drawn attention.

However, just over half of Mrs Dodds’ activity is in the form of written questions. And closer scrutiny reveals that most have been asked in recent months. At the mid-point of the current Parliament, Mrs Dodds had asked just 39 written questions. But by last month, that number had soared to 437.

Of Mrs Dodds’ 437 questions, 77 per cent have been asked since the start of last year. Some of Mrs Dodds’ questions appear at variance with her call for less EU “meddling” in UK affairs. One question asked the European Commission what action would be taken “at EU level to help member states to combat truancy, and to compel parents to provide an acceptable example to their children in relation to commitment to their education”.

Jim Nicholson has asked about half the questions of Mrs Dodds but shares her correlation between proximity to an election and the number of questions being asked.

Roughly 80 per cent of the UUP veteran’s questions – which range from the plight of bees to the future of dairy farming – have been asked since the start of last year.

Sinn Fein has asked the fewest questions – Bairbre de Brun asked 40 questions before retiring in 2011; her successor, Martina Anderson, has asked 35 questions. However, the party shares unionists’ increase in activity as an election looms – Ms de Brun asked just three questions in 2009 and 13 in 2010.

Now Sinn Fein warns against vote-splitters

Sinn Fein is adopting the DUP’s election argument not to split the vote.

The DUP has, over recent weeks, repeatedly warned of the dangers of “shredding” the unionist vote among numerous candidates.

Now Sinn Fein’s Mid Ulster MP, Francie Molloy, has made a remarkably similar argument against Sinn Fein’s nationalist opponents.

Mr Molloy said that Sinn Fein had the “strength and numbers to deliver” and added: “Don’t be misled that by voting for independents, spoilers or one-hit wonders that you can change the world. The only way to bring about change is to have strong representation by a strong Sinn Féin team that are there in numbers to make a real difference.”

Extra obstacles for the disabled

More needs to be done to assist disabled people into politics, an NI21 council candidate has said.

Alison Crawford, above, who uses a wheelchair, said that she literally had obstacles to overcome as she manoeuvred over dodgy pavements or faced steps up to doorways while canvassing door-to-door.

Ms Crawford said that a fund to help disabled people into politics only accepted applicants in England and has never been extended to Northern Ireland because of “apathy, a shortage of political will and the absence of a joined-up approach”.

Ask about Sunday: Caleb

An evangelical Christian lobby group with links to the DUP has urged voters to probe council candidates’ views on “the steady erosion of the Lord’s Day”.

The Caleb Foundation, which includes DUP Assemblyman Mervyn Storey on its ‘council of reference’, said in a statement that it was “increasingly concerned” about the “increasing numbers of social, sporting, cultural and community events” held on Sundays.

It added: “We would therefore invite candidates who are standing for the councils in the forthcoming election to make clear their position on the staging of public events on a Sunday.

“We also encourage voters to ask candidates about this matter during these closing days of the election campaign.”