Posted By: May 26, 2014

Tom Kelly. Irish News ( Belfast). Monday, May 26, 2014

SO the people have spoken, or more precisely just over half of them have spoken in
the elections to the new Super Councils.

That the public was so non-plussed about politics here presents a real challenge to
the political classes in Northern Ireland. We are perhaps only one election away
from a democratic deficit as more people disengage from the political process.

As far as the election itself goes, very little has changed as both the DUP and Sinn
Fein remain by far the dominant players. Mike Nesbitt may be the one local leader
who can afford to feel smug as the Ulster Unionists suffer a revival of sorts. His
tactic of outflanking the DUP by going to the right has worked, as more Unionists
harden their stance against compromise over flags, parades and victims.

It was good to see the veteran Jim Rodgers prove there is still much life in old dogs.

Similarly the TUV, albeit a minority party, will prove to be a constant thorn in the
side of the DUP. The successes too, of the PUP means that liberal Unionism is as
dead as a dodo.

The DUP can take comfort from the fact that they can easily sustain a drop of four
per cent and still remain the top dog in unionism.

There is little doubt that Peter Robinson is right when he says that the Alliance
grip on the east Belfast parliamentary seat looks increasing tenuous.

Unionism in general has been energised by the disputes over flags, emblems and
parades and while the gardening Protestants who number over 400,000 stay at home,
the angry heads came out in their thousands. On the Nationalist side, Sinn Fein
demonstrated once again their mastery of vote management and discipline but they too
will harbour some disappointment that the SDLP did not implode.

The non-implosion of the SDLP is nothing short of a miracle given the lack of
political direction in that party.

The decision by the leadership to impose extra candidates into areas that struggled
with quotas is mind boggling and has certainly cost the SDLP a handful of seats.

In areas like Down where there is discipline and organisation and more importantly
clear green grass between SDLP and Sinn Fein, the former party prospers.

If the SDLP leadership can't or won't get to grips with its place on the political
landscape then its decline will be slow, painful and unedifying.

The obvious answer to longevity is staring it in the face and that is to leave the
executive and challenge relentlessly as an opposition. However, one suspects there
are those within the SDLP who prefer the crumbs from the table than an appetite
whetted by hunger. On the plus side the success of people like Geraldine Donnelly
from Crossmaglen shows that there is tenacity and sheer doggedness with some in that

Sinn Fein has plateaued in the North but they still have much to crow about.
Toppling the SDLP from its Derry citadel was in some ways inevitable with the
addition of Strabane into the new electoral area but it is a hugely symbolic win for
Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein's dominance in Belfast is truly amazing but it also points to an
increasingly polarised city as their growth has fuelled Unionism in a negative way.
Alliance has little to brag about in the election as there has been no Anna Lo
factor. That they remain at just over six per cent of the vote is hardly encouraging
for an ageing team at Stormont and their only parliamentary seat at risk.

It was sad however to see their veteran councillor Marie Hendron lose out in east
Belfast, she is a paragon of virtue and decency.

It was also disheartening to see the ebullient and capable Duncan Morrow fail to
take a seat for that party as he would have given them substantial intellectual

The train crash that was NI21 was an inevitability from its inception. The whole
edifice was a shambles - a political public relations idea that took root with the
liberal media and the naive. It was a one man puppet show based more on hope than

Ms McKenzie, who had ambitions for europe, could hardly scrape together three
hundred votes in the council elections. She has not so much quit politics as
politics has quit her. Everyone with the exception of NI21 can claim something from
these elections and of course there have disappointments with some good people
falling by the wayside, but that's politics.