Pretty big turnout. Nine rows of ten seats. A group of journos and cameras standing to the right. Group of staffers and volunteers standing to the left in front of curtains which would be drawn apart to reveal the Logo. To me it had a slight suffragette feel to it. And I think I have seen Norn Iron tracksuits like it. A bit late in starting.Seemingly there was an over-spill audience in another room And that caused the delay. Oddly the Launch got underway when Mr Eamonn Mallie, even more bohemian than ever entered the room. For a brief moment I thought Mallie expected people to stand up and applaud. Few introductory remarks from the new Chair (?). John McCallister spoke sincerely and upbeat.
About seven people were invited to speak. It seemed to go down well, although it is not really my kinda thing. For the most part, these were people who had not voted before. Two maybe even three, had been or still are politics students. The amateur feel CAN be a strength but there are no “big names” and ultimately the Party may need a tier of local councillors and it will be interesting to see if they can do well in 2014. No mention of financial backers either. There were one or two lobbying “faces” there…but significant non-appearances.
There were several SDLP faces there. That should not be interpreted as “support”, except in the general sense of goodwill.
In his speech, Basil made a virtue out of the grassroots nature of the Party but to me it lacks muscle. No Alliance “faces” there (so far as I know). But really thats the battleground. This is a genuinely non-sectarian unionist Party and a worry to Alliance Party.
I wish NI21 well but my overall impression is that this new Party has in some way or other been on the cards for three years and the collapse of the UUP-Tory Coalition. That MIGHT have been the opportune time for a new liberal unionist Party and that ship may have sailed with Bradshaw and Hamilton in the Alliance Party and Ringland with the Conservatives and Ian Parsley (for now) with Alliance.