Bear with me, for this is the first time I’ve done this live blogging. UTV is running a live debate between the five main contenders in North Antrim, moderated by Jim Dougal.
Right, Dougal asks about Ballymena being Asbo and drug capital of north. Ian Jr mentions transient people coming to Ballymena and bringing drug problems with them. Jim Allister talks about running down of police and Ian Jr sitting on policing board, also area needs fulltime MP. Daithi McKay: majority of crime in Ballymena drug related, resources needed for area. Declan O’Loan praises police interventions with youth. Irwin Armstrong: invest in teenagers, keep them away from drugs, Asbos having no impact as no backup.
Dougal on cuts in pipeline. Ian Jr: constituency turned round in last 40 years by Papa Doc, cuts must not affect North Antrim disproportionately. McKay: not cut public sector but increase private sector, concentrate on small and medium enterprises, we achieve more outside Westminster than others in it. O’Loan: people on doorsteps telling politicians to get in and make it work, being on floor of Westminster hugely important. Armstrong: resent N Antrim being called a backwater, neither Paisley lives in constituency. Allister: rising unemployment especially in Ballymoney, need to build new employment base through encouraging small industry, Invest NI far too focused on getting in call centres rather than helping local business.
Dougal asks about bitter battle between DUP and TUV. Ian Jr tries to take moral high ground – I run on local issues and delivery for constituency, Allister spends all his time slinging mud at me and Dad. Allister: only weapon I have and need against Junior is the truth, people don’t want overbearing dynasty passing on to flawed second generation, Junior approved PSNI training Gaddafi’s militia, Junior lobbied for developers at St Andrews. Junior: Jim filled with hatred against me and Dad, can’t work with anybody. Allister: constituency needs someone who had 96% attendance record in Europe, a worker not a smart alec. Armstrong: people want to know about jobs not history, I have run businesses and know about creating jobs. O’Loan: people want to hear delivery on jobs agenda, transfer test, frontline health care and I can bring that to Westminster. McKay: we need to kickstart economy, pressure banks to lend to small businesses, lower corporation tax, take economic levers out of London and into the Assembly. McKay and O’Loan talking over each other on abstentionism.
Allister: we need end to mandatory coalition, people in despair over 11+ thanks to SF in government, will share power with anyone but SF. Ian Jr: I want to go to Westminster and be a voice over issues like pensions, not to give off about peace process. Allister: I live in North Antrim (ouch!), there is appetite for change from people who don’t want this dynasty to carry on, Big Ian wouldn’t even turn up to vote on abortion, we don’t need flawed second generation, you chuckled with terrorists in government. Armstrong: I am only candidate campaigning to be in UK government.
And, er, that’s it. Allister, as ever, snapping away like a wee terrier with a bone it won’t let go of. Junior starting out trying to do the laid-back, moral-high-ground, patronising thing that Adams does so well, but quickly getting quite snappy. You could almost feel the hatred flowing out of the screen. The other three getting their points across – I’d forgotten how much I enjoy Declan O’Loan’s waspish delivery – but strictly there for the purposes of the Representation of the People Act. The marquee clash was always Allister vs Paisley Jr, and it was just as bad-tempered as one would have hoped.