How can you tell when elections are coming?

Elections are coming
Elections are coming

This isn’t to encourage cynicism about politics, but you’d know from a quick perusal of last week’s papers that elections are coming. Long before politicians start shouting over each other on TV they re-double their efforts to get mentioned in ‘the paper’.

Of course, we’d have something to complain about if they made no effort to communicate with us.

We’re fortunate to have excellent representatives who sustain a high media profile all the time. They work hard and so they’re mentioned virtually every week. There are others, across the North, from whom we hear remarkably little until an election looms into view. Then, their press releases appear and they’re just as gratefully received by journalists, as press releases are from more regular contributors. Local papers have an infinite ‘market’ for ready-made, ready-to-use copy.

I do have individuals in mind but I’m not going to name them. You know who you’d put into the former and into the latter categories.

Those name checked in the Journal last week are definitely in the hard-working and frequently mentioned category. I’m not implying any criticism of them. Here are a few examples.

Three Derry people spoke at Sinn Féin’s ard fheis in Wexford. National chairperson Declan Kearney called on all northern parties to sign up to a reconciliation strategy, “while extremists peddle wreckers’ agendas”. (Incidentally, I agree, that a charm offensive is more likely to produce positive results than any other type of offensive.) MEP Martina Anderson called for an end to youth emigration and outlined some of her work load in Brussels. Deputy First Minister McGuinness made as wide-ranging a speech as you’d expect. He included a call to unionist leaders to face down extremists in their own community.

Meanwhile, at Westminster, Mark Durkan voted in favour of a government ban on smoking in cars (in England) when children are present. There’s no debate about the fact that people shouldn’t make children breathe-in smoke. It’s just a question of whether or not a legal ban is the best way to stop them doing it.

At home, Councillor Elisha McCallion (Sinn Féin) called for “drug drop off” boxes to be available. Councillor Bridget Meehan (Sinn Féin) wants local businesses to benefit from public procurement contracts and so a “Meet the Buyer” event is to be held in the Everglades Hotel on February 27. Councillor Tony Hassan (Sinn Féin) welcomed upgrading of street lighting in Carnhill. Mr Rory Farrell (SDLP council candidate) welcomed the North West Regional Science Park at Fort George and called for expansion at Magee. MLA Colum Eastwood wants the green light for a new stadium at the Brandywell and criticised the Stormont Sports Minister for not funding it.

So, if even you’d just arrived in Derry on a space ship from the Planet Zog; if you read the Journal you’d probably think elections are coming.

They are. European and local elections are on May 20. Stormont elections were originally due next year but they’ve been postponed until 2016 to introduce five year fixed terms and bring us into line with England and Wales.

That gives plenty of time for more populist issues to be given an airing and scape goats found for less popular decisions.

It’s all part of the political ‘system’. Isn’t democracy a trifle obvious even if it’s still better than the alternative?