NI assembly election: All aboard the Eastwood Express

NI assembly election: All aboard the Eastwood Express

All aboard the Eastwood Express

Media captionSDLP leader Colum Eastwood says he’ll need to upgrade the battle-bus after the election

Election battle-buses have a history of cruising into controversy.

Remember the “fuss at the bus” between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Ulster Unionists in the 2003 Northern Ireland Assembly election campaign?

Or perhaps Vote Leave’s big red machine in the EU referendum campaign sits more freshly in the memory?

Well, this is the Social Democratic and Labour Party’s (SDLP) bus – the “Eastwood Express”, as the party’s leader has dubbed it.

Colum Eastwood acknowledged that it’s not exactly the most formidable form of campaign transport.

“It’s modest, aye – but we only had a couple of weeks to get ready, so that’s about as big as we could manage,” he said.

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The Eastwood Express will ferry candidates and campaigners around Northern Ireland

“It’s a conversation starter at least.”

Vote Leave’s Brexit campaign bus featured the controversial and incorrect claim that a UK withdrawal from the EU could boost the NHS by £350m a week.

The SDLP is refraining from plastering any bold claims like that on to the side of its vehicle, but Mr Eastwood did stick his neck out to predict he might soon need a bigger bus.

“The problem is we won’t get all our incoming MLAs on it – that’s the only problem,” he joked.

“We’ll be back next year with a 50-seater!”

You can see more of the SDLP’s bus in BBC News NI political correspondent Enda McClafferty’s interview with Mr Eastwood on BBC Newsline later this week.

Sharing the St Valentine’s Day love?

It’s fair to say that there was some surprise on social media when the DUP’s Gavin Robinson appeared in this photo on Tuesday afternoon…

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Love Equality NI

That’s because the activists he is pictured with represent the Love Equality NI group, which campaigns for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Mr Robinson’s party has, of course, been vehemently opposed to legalising marriage for gay couples.

So, was he sharing the St Valentine’s Day love for their cause?

A DUP spokeswoman said he was simply accepting a petition on the issue from the campaigners.

“Our position on this issue remains as was and is well known,” she added.

Mr Robinson had a message for his visitors: “Don’t forget the chocolates next time,” he posted on Twitter.

Beating the deadline

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Roses are red, violets are blue… if you’re not registered to vote then it’s too bad for you.

St Valentine’s Day was the final chance for anyone wanting to have a say in the assembly poll on 2 March to get their name on the electoral register.

The lunchtime queue at the Electoral Office of Northern Ireland’s Belfast branch snaked all the way down the stairwell, with people submitting their applications for a vote.

One student in the line said she had little interest in voting before now, but her view had changed.

“It’s a big, massive vote this year, so I want to get involved and have my vote counted,” she said.

“It may not make much of a difference, but at least I have my say.”

And another first-time voter said she was spurred on to vote after the EU referendum result didn’t go the way she’d expected.

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A long queue of people were at Belfast’s Electoral Office to register for a vote

“The Brexit vote really upset me and I’m really annoyed that I didn’t vote,” she said.

“I think it’s time that I grow up and make a change for the future.”

But others weren’t so hopeful of change in this election.

“The people that moan about it online aren’t always the people that go and vote,” one man said.

“We’ll be in the exact same position as we always are – we always gripe about it but I don’t think anything’s going to change.

One regular voter said he was frustrated by recent happenings at Stormont.

But he added: “Will it make me change who I vote for? Probably not.

“I’m no less disgusted with the actions of the people I have voted for before, but I still want to use my vote and I want to make it count.”

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.

Source: BBC News – Northern Ireland

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