Northern Ireland Election 2017

NI Assembly election: Doggie dangers, and voting with your butt

Vote with your butt

Butt bins at the Lagan Village Youth and Community Group

Political pollsters haven't exactly covered themselves in glory in recent times - you just have to look at the 2015 general election, the Brexit vote and Donald Trump's rise to the US presidency.

But a Belfast community organisation is trying to restore respectability to the opinion polls with a novel idea.

The Lagan Village Youth and Community Group, just off the city's Ravenhill Road, is installing bright yellow cigarette bins with a twist in a bid to predict the outcome of the Northern Ireland Assembly election.

People will vote with their butts by slipping their smokes into one of two slots, choosing between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

George Newell from the centre said the ballot-style bins would do their bit for the environment as well as getting people to think about politics.

"Instead of people throwing their cigarette ends on to the street, these butt bins will encourage people to dispense of them in a safe, environmental manner," he said.

"The idea behind these ones is to make a statement with your butt.

"So, we've put a sign on them - who will be the biggest party after the assembly election; will it be the DUP or Sinn Féin?"

And George believes this could spark a new forecasting "trend".

On 3 March, there'll be no ifs, just butts - the bins will be emptied and the cigarettes counted to see if the tobacco-based total matches the election outcome.

But George has already got an idea who will win the battle of Lagan Village.

"Knowing this locality, I don't think the DUP has much of a problem."

Shaggy dog story

Image copyright Thinkstock

It's the dogs that are the danger on the campaign trail in South Down, as one candidate found out on Wednesday.

And Sinn Féin's Barry McElduff has said that life's no different west of the River Bann.

Whether it's an Alsatian or a Yorkshire terrier, hounds pose one of the "perennial challenges" faced by canvassers, particularly in country areas.

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Media captionSinn Féin's Barry McElduff warns of the dangers of dogs while out on the canvass

"As a canvasser, you've got to try and find out: Will that dog bite you?" he explained.

"Wee dogs, big dogs - they always say the wee terriers are the worst."

For canvassers who come up against a barking dog that's bearing its teeth, our handy tip for those knocking on the doors is to slip it a slice of ham - that'll guarantee you get its vote!

Debating the changes

Image caption Fionnuala Kennedy said she wants audiences to engage in the debate on welfare changes

Welfare reform sparked a crisis at Stormont a couple of years ago when the executive parties couldn't agree on their own package of mitigation changes in line with the reforms that were coming into effect in the rest of the UK.

And now it's taken centre stage in this election campaign as the subject of a play.

Entitled is being performed across Northern Ireland until Saturday 25 February, and it looks at the impact of the controversial phasing out of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments, as well as people's use of food banks.

Scriptwriter Fionnuala Kennedy said that when researching for the play she was struck by how many people were unaware of the looming changes to their benefits.

Image copyright Thinkstock

"We interviewed people who were on benefits as research for the play and they were saying: 'I'm on DLA and I was told it was for life, so welfare reform doesn't apply.'

"And we had to tell them, as artists in the room: 'No it does.'

"Then they were asking us for help with benefit forms - that was really worrying."

But she said that her intention with the play is to encourage the audience to take part in the welfare debate.

"It's up to the audience whoever they vote for - it doesn't just stop on 2 March," she added.

"If the politicians you've voted for don't do what they say they were going to do, hold them accountable - we've every right to question our politicians and make them work for us."

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.

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