Ireland: 1,000 candidates to stand for Assembly

AFTER the phoney war, the real political conflict. The forthcoming elections for a Northern Ireland Assembly look certain to eclipse last week's peace referendum in rivalry, skulduggery and sectarian bitchiness. The power to run Ulster is at stake, and most of the competing parties would cheerfully drive it through each other's heart.

On 25 June, Ulster's 1.2 million voters will choose 108 members for a Stormont with a difference: the first power- sharing administration since the collapse of the Sunningdale government of 1974. It comes equipped with locking devices to ensure that neither "tradition" dominates the other, in the way that Protestant-dominated parliaments did for almost 50 years before the Troubles restarted.

The jockeying for power has already begun. No one is very surprised. Elected members of the assembly will be paid pounds 36,000 a year, plus the same again in expenses and allowances. "This is big bucks over here," said a political insider. "Especially for politicians who have never got paid for anything, and are just in it because they hate each other. Now they are going to get paid for hating the other lot."

A rush of applications is confidently predicted. The electoral deposit has been set deliberately low at pounds 150 to allow the maximum participation by Northern Ireland's myriad fringe parties, practically all of whom will not win a single seat. Each of the 18 constituencies will elect six members under the single transferable vote form of proportional representation. It seems likely that as many as 1,000 hopefuls will present themselves for election, most of them no-hopers and some from eccentric parties who found their way on to the Northern Ireland Forum because of political (and military) correctness.

No such corrective mechanisms operate this time. It is a straight slog between the big boys. Gerry Adams's Sinn Fein is seeking to supplant the SDLP as the biggest nationalist party. The "Shinners" will do well, taking probably 19 of the 44 nationalist seats, and confirming their role as the fastest-growing political party in Northern Ireland. But they are likely to pile up votes in traditional working-class strongholds without breaking through in the marginal middle-class constituencies.

The Unionist political balance sheet is a nightmare. Judged on previous form, the Official, Pro-Agreement Ulster Unionists will pick up 29 seats, the Rev Ian Paisley's Anti-Agreement Democratic Unionists 22 seats, Robert McCartney's maverick UK Unionist Party perhaps three and the parties linked directly to the Loyalist paramilitaries maybe two, depending on whether they reach an electoral pact not to oppose each other. So "moderate" unionists who support the Good Friday Agreement ought to be in a majority.

This encouraging scenario is complicated by the difficulty of UUP leader David Trimble in ensuring that all his candidates follow his party's line. Some are certain to be chosen and elected on an Anti-Agreement ticket. The outcome could be a dominant unionist bloc dedicated to wrecking the Assembly, but particularly the North-South machinery designed to reform and revitalise Dublin-Belfast links.

The Assembly members will not have much to do for their money, at least for the first few months. Sinn Fein members will be lucky to see more than pounds 20 a week of their stipend, the rest going to party funds. At Westminster, legislation is running well behind realpolitik, and the power-sharing body will not be fully operational until some time next year.

The legislature, with powers of law making but not, for the foreseeable future, of tax raising, will have a Cabinet of six to 10 members. Sinn Fein expects to have at least one seat on the body. "Gerry Adams will school your children" was used as a slogan by the No campaign to frighten unionist waverers, but there will be provisions preventing politicians wedded to violence from getting their hands on the levers of power.

It could be an illusion: Mr Adams insists that Sinn Fein has no weapons, but he has signed up to military decommissioning. This may prove the stumbling block. Mr Trimble says he will not meet a Sinn Fein "minister" who does not, or cannot, deliver the IRA's arms. Furthermore, the DUP says it has legal advice that permits wrecking measures to collapse the Assembly. Even the official Unionists talk of bringing it down if it is not to their liking. The shooting may be over, but the war has not ended.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Arts and Entertainment
Pink Floyd on stage at Live 8 in 2005. From left to right: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright
music New album The Endless River set to overtake boyband for most pre-ordered of all-time
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink