North Belfast was nasty on so many levels. An Electoral Pact between DUP and UUP to bolster Nigel Dodds in a seat that the DUP was concerned would be lost to unionism. Indeed there was a second and lesser reported…but probably more shameful pact. The Conservative Party did not field a candidate …a clear nod of approval to potential coalition partners DUP. And a complete abandonment of “neutrality” by the Norn Iron Office.
Overtures by Sinn Féin to SDLP to let Gerry Kelly have a free run were understandably and properly rejected. Sinn Féin actually compounded the tribalism by circulating a leaflet that was downright sectarian in tone…appealing to Voters on the grounds of Demographics. This in the constituency where Protestant leaders of the 1798 Rebellion…Henry Joy McCracken and William Drennan are buried…was shameful.
Worse…from a Sinn Féin perspective, it failed miserably. While Dodds added UUP votes into his column, Gerry Kelly failed to raise the Sinn Féin percentage. It is likely that some “soft” UUP voters were turned off by the naked sectarianism of an electoral pact and voted Alliance.
For SDLP, it was a bad day. Certainly squeezed by Sinn Féin. But people just didnt vote.
I have a lot of time for Alban Maginness but I think this was one election too far for a man even older than me. And it would be a mistake to run him in 2016. Did he suffer by being one of the older generation of SDLP MLAs who were absent for the Equal Marriage Debate and Vote a few weeks ago? Yes I think so.
Nichola Mallon would in my view have been a better candidate. As the position of Mayor of Belfast is increasingly non-partisan, being nominated as a candidate before her very successful Mayoral term was over would have been inappropriate. There may have been other good reasons. But I hope Nichola is on the SDLP ticket next year.
The speech made by Nigel Dodds was a throwback to the worst of DUP in the 1970s and 1980s. He referred with some passion to a dirty campaign by Sinn Féin, including bringing a disabled child into the discourse. Whether or not, Dodds was justified in being angry, I dont know. But what I could clearly see was that this was very, very personal.
It was a vexation. DUP and Sinn Féin seem bound together in sheer unadulterated hatred. Behind every feel-good event and feel-good photo opportunity, with smiling Peter Robinson and smiling Martin McGuinness is this cess pit of hatred.
This Farce does not deserve to succeed.