Slugger Awards 2009

Last night I attended the Slugger Awards, which is based around the activities of the blog, Slugger O’Toole. This was the second annual event, supported by local sponsors.

The awards are a recognition of individual politicians, journalists, and campaigns that a judging panel identify over the course of the year. Mick Fealty, Editor of Slugger O’Toole, is the Chair of Judges.

The event itself was held at the Black Box, in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast, and just around the corner from a previous employer. But that didn’t prevent me from going to the dinner venue first, the Europa Hotel! Made it just in time for comedian, Tim McGarry, to commence his compère (emcee) duties. As expected, McGarry was very entertaining, and handled the technical difficulties well (pleading with attendees not to hock the Qwizdom handsets on eBay).

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Before some of the politician-based awards, there were several videos presented. These were produced by young volunteers at WIMPS (Where Is My Public Servant, a program at Public Achievement). I was impressed with how much hard work went into this — a lot of time to do the interviews and compile into concise videos. My favourite vox pop answer to the question, “What do you think makes a good politician?” was, “Any form of intelligence!”

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On hand was the official cartoonist, Martin Rowson (The Guardian). Immediately after the winner had been announced, he/she would go over to Rowson for him to draw an illustration on the spot — their actual award. This is the second year he has done this, and he recollects his experience from last year:

“This could have been a tricky — indeed, dangerous — assignment, as quite often politicians of every stripe don’t particularly like the way I portray them. However, as things turned out, everyone seemed delighted, all the way from the delightful female DUP Councillor of the Year to the impressively dour Sinn Fein Assembly Member who won the Up and Coming Politician prize.”

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After the ceremony, many headed over to the Europa for a buffet meal and more entertainment. Instead of speakers and podium, there was a roaming microphone, with winners (and losers) telling all how much the awards have changed their lives!

All in all, a very pleasant and enjoyable evening. I thought the mixture of politics, journalism, private sponsors, light heartedness, and celebratory tone was just right. Thankfully less than a stuffy dickie-bow tie affair, but more than a back-slapping drinks reception. It was very appropriate for the place, and I look forward to next year’s event.

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For the record, here is the Slugger Awards 2009 short list, with winners in boldface:

UP-AND-COMING POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR, presented by Common Purpose
Steven Agnew
Simon Hamilton MLA
Michelle O’Neill MLA

LOCAL NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR, presented by the Equality Commission
Andersonstown News
Dungannon News and Tyrone Courier
The Gown

LOCAL COUNCIL OF THE YEAR, presented by WIMPS
Belfast City Council
Down District Council
Limavady Borough Council

LOCAL COUNCILLOR OF THE YEAR, sponsored by 4iP
Cllr Conor Maskey
Cllr PJ McAvoy
Cllr Cara McShane
Cllr Maire Hendron

MLA OF THE YEAR, presented by NICVA
John O’Dowd MLA
Dawn Purvis MLA
Peter Weir MLA

CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR, presented by the MLA of the Year
Belfast Airport Watch campaign
Belfast Telegraph ‘Sit Down and Sort it Out’ campaign
Employers for Childcare Vouchers campaign

PARTICIPATION AND INVOLVEMENT AWARD, presented by the British Council
Assembly Commission – Assembly Roads and engagement programme
Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee (IMTAC)
Public Achievement

JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR, presented by Johnsons Solicitors
Mark Devenport
David Gordon
Julia Paul
Suzanne Breen

POLITICAL BLOGGER OF THE YEAR, presented by the Commissioner for Public Appointments in NI
Alan Meban (Alan in Belfast)
Daithí McKay MLA
Splintered Sunrise

COMMITTEE CHAIR OF THE YEAR, presented by Stratagem
Fred Cobain MLA
Paul Maskey MLA
Jim Wells MLA

POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR, presented by Slugger O’Toole
Jim Allister
Arlene Foster MLA
Martin McGuinness MP MLA

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