Last year saw the inaugural Slugger O’Toole Political Awards (or the ‘Sluggers’ as they seem to have become known in many quarters over the past few days) arrive on the political scene in Northern Ireland. Tomorrow they’ll be here again, with the event taking place in the Black Box in Belfast.
The Slugger Awards mark something different in politics here. It’s fair enough to take a pop at politicians on issues like double-jobbing and expenses claims when it’s justified, but there is a good many public representatives out there who expend a considerable amount of effort in providing a decent public service, and recognising this is what the Sluggers are about.
It’s also about encouraging debate on current affairs and politics here. For years political discourse went around in circles and was caught in a stasis on account of there being no ‘real’ politics here. However, the advent of peace and normalisation, coupled with the opportunities afforded by the internet to discuss issues in an open forum, has enabled people who never would have spoken before to share their views on sites such as Slugger O’Toole. And now the Sluggers take it to the next level with a tangible event which brings all this together.
Tickets for the Awards sold out extremely quickly, and when extra ones were released, they were snapped up too. I'll be down at the Awards ceremony tomorrow in an official capacity, but it'll be great to see so many people from a range of backgrounds coming together to celebrate good politics.
Things may not be perfect here yet, and indeed, there isn’t really any such thing as political perfection. However, the fact that the Slugger O’Toole Political Awards can take place at all is a testament to how far we’ve come.