Retiring but not shy: Press will miss media-friendly Alban

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Alban Maginness would never shy away from giving his opinions on air, but will the next generation of MLAs be as forward with the press?

From having his moustache shaved off for charity to becoming the first nationalist mayor of Belfast, Alban Maginness has been a frequent presence on our TV screens during his 30 years in politics.

With his barrister's training, he was never shy to to take to the airwaves to fight his corner, and could be relied on to help the media out with a comment at short notice.

The North Belfast MLA's retirement points up the extent to which May's Northern Ireland Assembly election will see a new generation of political faces coming to the fore.

The campaign will feature two new party leaders, the Democratic Unionist Party's Arlene Foster and the Social Democratic and Labour Party's Colum Eastwood.

Nervous

Looking at the figures, of the 108 MLAs who took seats back in 2011, more than 30 will no longer be in the fray, due to retirement, death or switching to the House of Commons.

Change is always to be embraced, but, selfishly perhaps, I hope any new representatives returned in May are as media-friendly as Alban Maginness.

Sometimes reporters find themselves having to concentrate on a core of interviewees, not through choice, but because some representatives are nervous of appearing on radio or television and others are not made available by their party's centrally controlled press offices.

Battering

Of course, it is up to each politician to decide on how to perform their role.

Some believe they can stay in touch with their constituents best by assiduously attending local events and avoiding facing tricky questions from the media.

But in the 21st century, good communication skills have to be considered central to political success.

So, after the election I look forward to all of the 108 new MLAs battering our doors down demanding to know when they will next be on our airwaves.

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