NI is abroad now… @libdems ?

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Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats

Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The latest issue in a long-running saga with the Federal Party of the Liberal Democrats has raised its head today.

At least one of our Northern Ireland members received an email today regarding the selection of candidates for election to the European Parliament.

Jonathan Davies, Senior Returning Officer writes, (with my comments in RED appended)

This autumn we will be selecting our candidates for the next European elections, which take place in 2014. (Oh good, that’ll help us all be able to campaign effectively.) I know these are elections in which many members living outside the UK have a special interest, (I’m sure that members who live outside the UK do have such an interest) so I am pleased to be able to tell you how you can take part in the selection. But to participate, you need to take action now.

All Liberal Democrat members living outside the UK who are registered to vote in UK elections can vote in the selection. (Northern Ireland is not outside the UK.) If you are not already registered, click here to find out more.

To take part in this autumn’s selection of European Parliamentary candidates, you must register with Party HQ not later than 31st August. Please click here and complete your details to register. You will then be able to vote for the selection of the Euro candidates for the Region where you are registered to vote. (Except that in our region (in the UK) does not field candidates.) Ballot papers will be sent out at the beginning of November.

It seems that the Federal Party has failed to recognise a few key things:

  1. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.
  2. The Northern Ireland local party of the Liberal Democrats is not in any region.
  3. At present the Liberal Democrats do not select candidates for the European Election in Northern Ireland.

So, as at least one member is asking,

What about those of us who live in the UK and aren’t allowed to vote for a Lib Dem candidate !

When is the Federal Party going to wake up to our existence – and truly integrate us into the Party. Understanding us is not difficult. And there are many local Lib Dems who have told me that they want to be able to field candidates in Elections, and furthermore, there are voters who have told me that they would like to be able to vote for the Liberal Democrats. So please, could someone from Lib Dem HQ please get back to us. Simon Hughes told us that he would sort out getting a meeting with the Chief Executive well over a year ago. Still nothing.

I’m getting really fed up now.

Northern Ireland saying Yes?

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Yes! logoIt’s great to be back after six months not posting on this blog. Although the last couple of days haven’t been a great day for the Liberal Democrats across the UK.

The reason for my absense from this blog over the last six months was of course because I was working with so many people from many political allegences and from none to try and secure a Yes! vote in the Alternative Vote referendum. Despite me being at the count centre in Newtownards for 15 hours yesterday until we had counted the Yeses and Noes for North Down, Strangford and Belfast East we still haven’t got the full Northern Ireland picture for the referendum and we are waiting that to conclude once the counts resume at 9am this morning.

However, last night Sky TV stuck their neck out and declared that Northern Ireland were going to say Yes!, some of the results from some of the centres indicate that this may be the case, but not all the results make that quite so clear. I am waiting with baited breathe to find out.

However, today I shall also be attending a Ceremony of Commitment, following his Civil Partnership yesterday, for my fellow contributor to this blog. So I’m hoping to deliver to Michael the perfect ‘wedding’ present a nice big Yes! for all the hard work he also has been doing for the campaign.

If you want a postal vote in Northern Ireland – you still need a reason.

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In Mark Pack‘s excellent post about who gets a postal vote for the Referendum in May, there is one slight problem. It is based on the electoral law as it is in Great Britain. Over here in Northern Ireland the rules on postal voting are not as liberal.

If you are listed on the electoral register but are unable to vote at your polling station in person you can apply to vote by post or proxy. You must provide a reason why you are unable to go to the polling station (e.g. because you will be on holiday or due to illness). The deadline for applying for a postal or proxy vote for the elections and referendum on 5 May 2011 is 5.00pm on 11 April 2011.

from the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland’s website.

councils delay has gone to Poots

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By now we should be well down the road for reorganisation of the local district councils in Northern Ireland from the 26 current district councils to the 11 council model. Sadly for some, though better for actual local democracy and relation of councillor to constituent, this has not happened.

According to the BBC, Northern Ireland’s Minister for the Environment, Edwin Poots, of the DUP, said that he

remained committed to reforming local government

Committed to reforming local government he may be, but not committed to bringing forward the legislation necessary to enable this to be done. For Mr Poots has failed to bring the Final Report of the Local Government Boundary Commission to the NI Assembly for final approval. Last November, we were still waiting, and we are still waiting today.

And today the Minister has decided to pull the plug on the funding for the Transition Committees. Whilst I have no problem in doing this, there is no point in them existing if we are not going to move to the eleven council model, we need to remember that it is not the Executive’s fault – nor the Assembly’s: it is the Minister’s fault himself. He is responsible for steering the requisite legislation through the NI Assembly. He has not even allowed the Final Recommendations of Dick Mackenzie to be approved – though this would appear to have something more to do with the actual boundaries between Belfast City Council area and the Lisburn City and Castlereagh merged council area.

cross posted from Gyronny Herald.

Rathlin ballot box – removal would not promote democracy

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The right to vote is a right that has been fought for over many years. In Northern Ireland we exercise this right in the usual way of attending a polling station near to our homes, providing Identification to ensure that we are entitled to the vote (why this is not introduced throughout the UK is anyone’s guess), marking our ballot paper which is issued there, and place it in the ballot box.

Under the draft polling place scheme that is being proposed by the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland for the constituency of North Antrim, the people of the island of Rathlin will be forced to travel to Ballycastle.

In today’s Belfast Telegraph, Sinn Féin’s Cara McShane claims that this is

undemocratic and blatant discrimination

Whilst I am not convinced that it is blatant discrimination, it is certainly not very democratic. Liberal Democrats cherish the right to vote, and the democracy that is brought about by it. That is why we are fighting for Fairer Votes in elections to Parliament at Westminster.

Unless the postal vote rules are changed, then the people of Rathlin will be forced to travel off their island to make their vote heard. I call on Douglas Bain, Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland to change this plan and restore the ballot box to Rathlin Island.

Rathlin Island (Photo: from Belfast Telegraph)

Party President: The Members Decide

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Following the decision of Ros Scott not to seek a second term the nominations to be the next Party President of the Liberal Democrats closed yesterday. It emerged that only two candidates have the required nominations to go before the all member ballot.

The two candidates and their respective websites are:

Tim Farron

Tim Farron

Susan Kramer

Susan Kramer

Susan Kramer and Tim Farron

Both candidates will in due course be mailing their manifestos to all party members, however both have intimated that they will be willing to answer specific questions from members. For those members who do not know both candidates that may be the way to help decide how to cast your vote.

This blog will remain impartial during the Presidential election, not endorsing either candidate. But will represent a balance reporting of both as and when it is available. I’m looking to compile a list of five questions to pose to both so any suggestions of what should be asked please add in the comments or email us directly.