Northern Ireland Election 2017

NI Assembly election: Continental views and milk price posers

A view from the continent

Lorenzo Amuso Image copyright Alan Meban
Image caption Lorenzo Amuso said political tensions in Northern Ireland are higher than he had expected

International intrigue in Northern Ireland's politics isn't what it used to be.

But it turns out that there is an occasional interested observer of this Northern Ireland Assembly election campaign from beyond Irish shores.

Lorenzo Amuso, a correspondent with RSI, an Italian language broadcaster in Switzerland, visited Belfast on Friday for a look at the situation at Stormont.

According to him, some people in mainland Europe are wondering what's going to happen in the 2 March poll because it's the first major election in a UK region since the Brexit vote last year.

Mr Amuso said they're asking if there could there be a backlash against those who pushed for the UK to leave the EU.

"It will be interesting to see the outcome of this election for several reasons," he said.

"[Northern Ireland] voted against the Brexit, and it will be interesting to see if the voters will punish the main party who supported the Brexit.

"I spoke with a few people in Belfast and another part of Northern Ireland, and according to them Brexit represents a threat to the peace process.

"So, there are a few elements which make this election different from the others."

On his visit, Mr Amuso met political figures, people living near the Irish border and those along Belfast's peace walls, and he said he was somewhat surprised by what he found.

"I thought before coming that the situation was a little bit more clear than it is at the moment," he said.

"I've got the impression after spending a few days in Belfast that there are more tensions than I expected, more threats, more dangerous points, which can recreate some segregation culture."


Posing the question

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Media captionSinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has his milk price knowledge tested

With this short-notice, snap election it's probably been difficult for a lot of organisations to arrange hustings events for people to put their questions to prospective politicians.

So, the Evangelical Alliance, a Christian campaign group, has come up with an alternative in a series of short video interviews with some candidates.

Virtually all of the questions are crowd-sourced from youth and young people's organisations, and the topics touched on are much broader than just religious issues.

Peter Lynas, the group's Northern Ireland director, said: "We were aware of the falling number of young people voting, so we thought: 'How do we get them engaged?'

"Primarily the groups we were talking to probably have Christian young people, but not exclusively.

"So we said: 'If you've got a question we'll try to get them together.'"

Several hundred questions were submitted, and as many as possible were put to election hopefuls from seven parties.

"We asked some questions around trust-related issues, including RHI," Mr Lynas said.

"We asked some questions around peace and the past; we asked some questions specific to young people; and then some of the hot-button issues, and we put those through to the politicians."

One of those quizzed was Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who was tested with one of those classic political interview questions: What's the price of a pint of milk?

If he shops around a bit more, he could find somewhere that sells two litres for two quid.


BBC News NI's Campaign Catch-up will keep you across the Northern Ireland Assembly election trail with a daily dose of the main stories, the minor ones and the lighter moments in the run up to polling day on Thursday 2 March.

Hear more on BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle's The Breakfast Show at 07:40 GMT, and on BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra at 17:40 each weekday.

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