Mr Simpson started by talking of his time at Sullivan and how he left with the aspiration of being a sports journalist but was told that it would not be as interesting as he hoped and that he should go into overall news journalism. We were also shown as short DVD clip of Mark reporting on an event in the North East of England a few years ago and what goes on behind the scene in his job.
He then went on to show a slideshow on Stormont, but not before he had embarrassed his two daughters who attend Sullivan but had boycotted his talk by putting up baby photos of them! Mr Simpson went through a number of different slides on words that he would link to Stormont.
He started with ‘Stable” saying that “if Stormont collapsed before the next election I would run round the back pitches in my boxers!” He believes that Stormont, through all its flaws has worked effectively to move Northern Ireland forward. The next slide was ‘Tense’ saying that although the leadership at Stormont works well together, there are still issues at grassroots level. Mr Simpson also thought ‘Open’ and ‘Robust’ described Stormont well. He also said Stormont was ‘Media-Friendly’ saying that there is a human side to the politicians up at Stormont who want the media to give a positive view of what happens up there. In Mr Simpson’s opinion Stormont is ‘Overcrowded” saying that 108 MLAs for 1.8 million people far outweighed public representation in any other part of the UK and Ireland. He finished by saying Stormont was ‘Nasty’ and ‘Tedious’ with some of the work being done there was monotonous and sometimes not done in the friendliest of ways.
When asked if he thought community relations had improved Mark said that they certainly had and he had seen them get better in his job but the leaders had to do more before Northern Ireland truly moves on. He was also asked what moment in his career stuck out in his mind the most. Mark recalled a live report he did in 2007 during the disappearance of Shannon Matthews in England. During his live report he said Shannon had been arrested rather than her mother and got himself completely confused. He described as “almost career destroying!”
Overall, Mr Simpson’s visit provided the society with a very different viewpoint of Northern Irish politics and was extremely interesting.
Jamie Woods Chairman of the Politics Society