To me this was a real Jekyll and Hyde election. I was really overjoyed to see how real issues (like Health and Education) took centre stage in the campaigns. However I was also depressed at how, when it came to the end, these all got pushed aside and the old tribal politics of the past came out.
Standing outside a polling station, I heard one Council candidate admitting that if he had been standing for election in England he would have been a Labour candidate - so why wasn't he?
Unfortunately the obvious answer was not that Labour don't stand here - rather it was the section of the community that he belonged to- a victory for Sectarian Politics.
Turkeys do not vote for Christmas. Nearly all the current parties here are relics of the old order. And more importantly the same old test is applied to any party/independent that dares to stand - But are you Nationalist or Unionist? And the truth is that in the Assembly Election at least this matters in the outcome, because of the way the Assembly is constructed.
The Alliance and the Greens would seem to be the examples that disprove the rule - But despite their denials the Alliance is usually (if unfairly) regarded as "soft" Unionist, leaving just the Greens.
So how can we bring true Left wing politics to Northern Ireland?
The political experiment that Cameron's Tories undertook in 2010 shows how not to do it. The Northern Ireland parties will not be reformed from within. The old orders are too well entrenched. We have come a long way from when people like Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin could insist that "Labour" appear in the title of the SDLP. Plus by tying to one of the existing blocs, a large number of potential supporters will be alienated.
There are two choices that remain.
1) Leave it as it is and hope that eventually they will come to their senses and align themselves.
2) introduce candidates aligned on the Left-Right axis, but neutral on the issue of the Union.
Well 1) is obviously nonsense (turkeys ... Christmas remember?) so the answer is 2) ?
This is where the Greens have led the way. Admittedly their structure has probably made this easier, but the lesson for the rest of the Left is obvious.
The Labour Party has long held together many disparate elements, supporting all sides of the Northern Ireland issue. In order to do that they have consistently refused to stand in Northern Ireland - despite the long association between Labour and these parts. But in today's multi party politics under STV, and with the oft expressed demand of members here to be allowed to stand, it is clear, to me at least, that this must now be reconsidered and candidates put in place.
Success may not come fast, but remember that in the 1892 election in the UK when independent Labour first stood they only gained 1% of the vote and no seats, yet within 32 years they were the Government.
So for me a simple conclusion... Labour must stand candidates... not to destroy other parties, but to reform the politics to the real issues.