Malachy Clarke

Thank fuck for that.

Ruth Patterson has been ‘overlooked’ as the replacement for Jimmy Spratt as MLA for South Belfast after he retired. The job has gone to Emma Little-Pengelly, one of Peter Robinson’s spads, instead.

So, like the sensible, mature, elected representative that she is, Ms Patterson announced that she would be quitting politics and leaving the DUP. Because of course, the grown up thing to do is cause a big stink and storm off when we don’t get what we want. I guess she’s learned a lot from watching her DUP colleagues in Stormont. At least Ms Patterson is seeing out the end of her term, acknowledging that it would be unfair to those who elected her if she bailed now.

This expectation that Ms Patterson has is something that we see too much of in politics. That she, by virtue of having been in the party for a long time, for having yelled and stamped her feet longer than some others, somehow deserves the position.

Whether cronyism, political appointments or people being handed positions due to seniority or political connections without a consideration of merit, this is by no means an exclusively Northern Irish problem (although it does seem to happen a lot in this part of the world).

Ms Patterson, you are owed nothing. Often, political seats are simply handed to whomever the party deals to be next in line, be that through seniority or party loyalty. This is almost definitely what has happened with Ms Pengaly’s appointment but obviously Ms Patterson felt it was her turn to warm a seat at Stormont. The DUP disagreed, which Ms Patterson seems unable to comprehend.

Perhaps when the party were looking at their list of prospective candidates they considered the following:

The DUP kept schtum about these at the time but perhaps if Ms Patterson so wanted to “climb the ladder” as she says she should have considered the repercussions of these actions.

In September, independent MLA Claire Sugden called for the Troubles-era generation of politicians to move aside and open the floor up for a new wave of young politicians from across a spectrum of political opinions and backgrounds. I couldn’t agree with her more. So with that in mind I say good riddance Ms Patterson; you shall not be missed.

Perhaps this is a good sign, an indication that the politics of the past, marching with paramilitaries, inappropriate scarves and violent anti-nationalist diatribes will no longer be acceptable.

I doubt it.

A man can dream though. A man can dream.

Malachy Clarke is from Belfast and is currently based in Glasgow.
Follow him on Twitter.

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