DERRY JOURNAL Editorial: One citizen, one vote

On Thursday, Derry goes to the polls to elect five citizens to serve on the seventh post-1998 Stormont Assembly.

By Kevin Mullan
Thursday, 5th May 2022, 9:27 am

Our right to vote is something we often take for granted, yet free and fair elections have been hard won, especially in this part of the world where democratic norms have not been followed for most of the existence of the abnormal northern state.

For the first half century, following partition, the governance of the six counties was characterised by political manipulation designed to keep nationalists out of power.

Egregious examples of this were the abolition of Proportional Representation - deliberately designed to increase unionist representation; the enactment of a Limited Companies Act, giving all limited companies a Local Government vote up to a maximum of six votes for every £10 valuation; and a limited franchise whereby only a householder and their spouse had the vote as opposed to all adults over the age of 21.

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On Thursday, Derry goes to the polls to elect five citizens to serve on the sixth post-1998 Stormont Assembly.

Most infamous were the multiple gerrymanders in Derry that, as late as the 1960s, saw 10,500 unionist electors secure 12 seats on the Corporation and 19,500 nationalists secure only eight. The net result was feet-on-the-streets, the civil rights movement and the end of the discredited old Stormont regime.

The last fifty years, however, have hardly been an exemplar of good democratic governance. For 34 of them - 1972-1998, 2002-2007 and 2017-20 - the north has suffered under one form of direct rule or another with the glaring democratic deficit that entails.

One thing that has united every British plenipotentiary in the north from Willie Whitelaw on has been that there was absolutely nothing we could do about them. The only people with the power to sack them or promote them have been the British Prime Minister of the day or their own electorates.

On the other hand, the track record of the new Stormont and the devolved power-sharing governments it has elected over the 16 years it has been sitting has been mixed, to put it mildly.

On Thursday, the power is in your hands. We asked all of the parties and candidates running in Foyle this week to submit a pre-election pitch to the people of the city. You can read why they think you should vote for them in today's paper and on the website