The Political Landscape is Changing – by Michael Lagan

The local Council Elections is a topic that has garnered a significant amount of attention in recent days, mostly because it was overshadowed in recent months by the anniversary of the GFA, Biden’s visit, the Windsor Framework, and the coronation of Charles.  It was brought into sharp focus in the past week and days by the fact it’s another one of those defining moments in Northern Irish history, y’know like when we were supposed to have a nationalist, Republican First Minister.

This election somewhat sneaked up on the electorate due to the many preceding events keeping it out of headlines and the main media in NEI apart from a few ‘Leaders Questions’ on Talk Back (few of which were actually taken by party leaders).  Strangely, many of the questions to the party leaders on Talk Back had less to do with local grassroots politics and more to do with regional politics.

For Unionism, this election was to be the barometer to gauge just how well their stance on the Windsor Framework and Brexit, in general, is sitting with their electorate.  There can be no doubt that the DUP specifically has been using the current political impasse to strengthen its following and standing outside of Stormont in a bid to garner support across the more hardline Unionist base which might well have moved toward Jim Allister’s TUV if it had gone back into Stormont again without at least some scrap of evidence the walkout had achieved something.

For nationalists of all hues, this election was personal.  One can’t have missed the election posters in all areas with Michelle O’Neill’s face on them, even though she wasn’t standing for election in those areas or at all.  For many nationalists, and definitely others, this election was about grassroots issues such as our education system falling apart, our health system falling apart, councils running out of money, huge swathes of our public services being cut away with millions of pounds in savings having to be made…and all the while the DUP and Unionism decided to boycott Stormont and make no mistake, young Unionists see this and many are disgusted.  For Republicans, Unionism depriving them of their right to a first-ever nationalist First Minister thanks to the DUP walking out of Stormont made this all the more personal.

Sinn Féin has been gaining huge popularity among young voters due to several factors such as their policies, leadership style, and voter demographics. One major issue that resonates with many young people is integrated education which took a massive hit last week financially because there was no one in Stormont to argue against the cuts which a Minister should have been making instead of a Permanent Secretary.  Policies on LGBTQ, education, and health see parties like the DUP and TUV lagging well behind the likes of Alliance, Sinn Féin and the SDLP, and even the UUP with their main priorities being changing the Windsor Framework and seeing fit that NEI be run from England which has been disastrous not only in the past but as we have witnessed recently, is still the case today.

Sinn Féin’s victory in Ballymena town marks a significant shift in local politics. The party’s first-ever councillor in the staunchly Unionist-dominated town, Bréanainn Lyness is massive in just a single person. This is a town that openly spends hundreds of thousands of pounds on a military parade while almost vomiting at the thought of allocating £200 to an Irish language ‘event’…and that was for a buffet.

The enormity of nationalist and ‘other’ parties doing so well in this election should not be underestimated.  Unionist parties dominate many councils and think nothing of withholding funding for events connected to the GAA, the Irish language, Pride events, and such.  This election outcome could trigger potential changes on a larger scale. One possible scenario is obviously that other left-leaning parties join forces with Sinn Féin to create a stronger opposition coalition in Unionist dominated councils.

Counts are still ongoing but Unionists are becoming worried.  People like John Taylor (Lord Kilclooney) are in a tizzy on social media because nationalists and others are doing so well while Unionists are losing seats left and right.  This election will be interesting.  The political landscape is changing and it can only be for the better.

2 Responses to The Political Landscape is Changing – by Michael Lagan

  1. Another Jude May 20, 2023 at 4:42 pm #

    I can remember John Taylor and other members of the junta standing on the balcony at Storming, addressing their supporters, ranting and raving against perfidious Albion and it was chilling as a young Catholic to listen to these men. There were some, how can I put it, rather aggressive looking characters in the throng, itching at the bit to get at the taigs. Taylor is now roaming around Jurassic Park, aka the British house of Lords. No odds about him. He must cry himself to sleep every night thinking of the glories that were (partitioned) Ulster.

  2. Another Jude May 20, 2023 at 4:43 pm #

    Spell checker put Storming instead of Stormont. Actually…..

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