Last Thursday June 6, John McCallister and Basil McCrea finally officially launched their new political party with the name of NI21, meaning Northern Ireland for the 21st century. The crowd at the launching Thursday night was mostly young and seemed to indicate that the party was going to grow by going after new voters and those who had never voted in the past or had stopped voting. The party has already declared itself to be pro-Union i.e. favoring Northern Ireland's continued status as a province of the United Kingdom. This means that it is not appealing to nationalists--those supporting a united Ireland--but like Alliance is seeking the vote of Catholics who want a non-sectarian Northern Ireland. The biggest challenge will be to motivate those known as "garden center Unionists" or "garden center Prods" because they spend their leisure time gardening rather than worrying about the security of the Union, to vote. The last time many of this crowd voted was in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement in May 1998. NI21 hopes to do this by playing up the need for an official opposition at Stormont to serve as a watchdog on the Executive.
I'm still going with my earlier prediction that McCrea will be reelected in the next election and McCallister will not be, freeing him up to become the political manager of the new party.