Northern Ireland Election 2017

NI assembly election: Campaign hits campus as crocs bite back

Election registration forms in several languages
Image caption NUS-USI has been helping international students to register to vote

International students in Northern Ireland are being urged not to miss out on their chance to vote in the assembly election, with registration forms in several languages being distributed across university campuses.

The National Union of Students-Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI) has been out and about to tell them to "make sure their voices are heard".

NUS-USI president Fergal McFerran said there is a "huge population" of students from abroad, and the union has been helping them apply for a vote.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Students feel angry about the pace of progress at Stormont, according to Fergal McFerran

"People from different parts of the world that are here to study are also entitled to vote, so we've brought forms in lots of different languages to encourage them all to have their say in Northern Ireland's future as well," he said.

Northern Ireland students living away from home are being encouraged to apply for a postal or proxy vote before Friday's 17:00 GMT deadline.

Mr McFerran said students feel strongly about equality issues and a "severe lack of investment" in further and higher education.

"More and more students that I speak to tell me about their anger and the lack of progress on some of the issues and Stormont doesn't always reflect those," he added.

Will Bell toll for solo-run Jonathan?

He was cast aside by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) after breaking ranks to make astonishing allegations on the catastrophic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

But Jonathan Bell is now going solo in a bid to defend his assembly seat even though he remains a member of the party.

Standing as an independent is "not the choice I would've made", he told BBC Radio Ulster's The Stephen Nolan Show on Tuesday, but added that "it's the choice that the suspension forced me into."

He will face a battle against three DUP colleagues in the Strangford constituency, but insists revenge is not on his agenda.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Jonathan Bell claims he has received more than 1,000 messages of support since he made his RHI revelations

And he said Mike Nesbitt had not extended a hand of friendship with an invitation to join the Ulster Unionists.

Next week will mark a full year on from the date on which the then enterprise minister eventually closed the RHI scheme after it careered far beyond its budget.

And Mr Bell said he was looking forward to "to placing my hand on the Bible" to reveal "a huge volume of material that I have not as yet disclosed" about the scandal that brought Stormont down.

A full list of candidates will be published on the BBC News NI website on Thursday 9 February.

Does cream rise to the top?

Image copyright Alan Meban
Image caption Lumen Christi College pupils cast their votes for their favourite sweet treats

School pupils in Londonderry got their just desserts as they took part in a mock vote count to help them understand the electoral process.

Political blogger Alan Meban visited Lumen Christi College to show year 10 students how the single transferable vote (STV) system works, but it was a "politician-free zone".

Instead, pupils voted for their favourite sugary treats, with apple tart topping the poll.

Image copyright Alan Meban
Image caption Apple Tart, the Pastry Party's sole candidate, reached the top of the tree

"This was kind of like the real count only shrunk down from a leisure centre into one history classroom," Mr Meban said.

"We had the Fruit Party, the Cream Party, the Egg Party and we had the Independent Cheeseboard, which was trying to be a cross-community alternative to the world of desserts, offering new politics for the modern dinner table.

"One or two of [the pupils] were actually saying at the end that they'd love to be involved in this process, that they'd love to see it in real life.

"The Electoral Office should maybe watch out - they could have a few people who want to become staff."

Blame it on the weatherman

Image copyright Twitter

Out on the campaign trail, election hopefuls and their canvassing pals have either been drenched or frozen as a winter campaign takes its toll.

Alliance Party candidate Stewart Dickson and Ulster Unionist hopeful Alicia Clarke are hoping for a turn in the weather as they pound the pavements over the next few weeks.

They'll be pleased to know that our BBC News NI weatherman Barra Best has vowed to do what he can for them...

Image copyright Twitter

Activists snap over crocodile jibe

After finally snapping into action on Monday with the DUP and Sinn Féin exchanging reptile jibes, the election campaign trail has continued on that theme.

Advocates of Irish got their teeth into DUP leader Arlene Foster after she said she would not "feed" the Sinn Féin "crocodile" by giving in to demands for an act to give official status to the language.

Donning fancy dress, four protesters gathered outside a DUP office in north Belfast to bite back...

Image copyright Press Eye

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 at 07:40 GMT and on BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra at 17:40 GMT each weekday.

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