Friday, 11 September 2009

Philosophy students wanted for new course on ‘whataboutery’

AN entire department at Queen’s University, Belfast is to be dedicated to the philosophical examination of what the hell Northern Ireland politicians are on about when they open their mouths to change over their feet.

Such core modules include: “Defining a row and not a row”; “Minister or not a minister – the Hamlet quandary”; and “Housing – Is that my job?”

Module 1: Minister or not a minister – the Hamlet Quandry
IN this part of the course students are to explain the context of a minister’s speaking roles. Their dissertation will be expected to concentrate on explaining when a minister decides when he is to be a party representative and when he is not to be a party representative (i.e. a minister).

Each of the clauses in the above sentence is to be analysed. [Course tutors reserve the right to plagiarise the answers, send them to constitutional lawyers and claim credit when senior civil servants seek legal opinion.]

Students may examine recent speeches from the First Minister, including this week’s controversial Ulster Hall address on how can devolved government deliver for citizens: what was expected of Mr Robinson; what script was he given; did he re-write the script; and was what he said party political or just plain old-fashioned double speak.

As a conclusion, students shall be expected to design a series or jaunty hats that ministers are to wear. This is to let audiences and media instantly tell when they are being a minister, party spokesman or the usual over-opinionated politician given too much air-time. A separate series of hats may be designed to assist MLAs in the same way.

Module 2: Defining a row
STUDENTS shall be required to define the difference between the verbal spats in the media and the seeming lack of fireworks at Executive meetings.

Students will be required to analyse the transcripts of Good Morning Ulster ‘exclusive’ interviews and the call-ins to ‘The Biggest Show the Country!’ (a.k.a. slimmer extraordinaire Mr Stephen Nolan).

Extra marks will be awarded for students that manage to stay awake.

The core of this module will be determining when the First Minister sways between referring to Sinn Féin as his ‘partner in government’ and referring to removing individual party vetoes on policy. Students will also be expected to extrapolate the ‘Disneyland or sunstroke’ metaphor used by the deputy First Minister reacting to the First Minister’s Ulster Hall speech.

Students will also be required to explain the phenomenon of public political spats outside the Executive room are quickly replaced by awkward silences, nervous whistling and eyes furtively examining the décor inside the Executive room. Points will be deducted from any student who mentions anywhere in their discourse the phrase ‘elephant in the room’ as this cliché has now been banned under human rights law under the designation ‘cruel and unusual punishment for readers’.

In addition, students will be expected to explain whether the target date of 2015 to ‘re-write the rules’ is a target or is it the exact date when the rules must be revised. [And if they understand that, and/or explain that they can expect a 1.1]

Module 3: Housing – Is that my job?
The core part of this module relies on defining when a Minister has a legislative obligation and when said obligation can be waived because of financial restraints.

Key to students’ responses will be explaining who has fiscal responsibility? And when that fiscal responsibility ends?

Additional course credits will be awarded for students who outline when a minister should inform the rest of the Executive when they’ve blown their budget, for example as soon as the budget is gone or wait till the media points it out; and what happens when the Executive doesn’t provide additional funds during monitoring rounds.

As a conclusion to their course (combination marks awarded across all three modules) students will have to explain why nothing gets done for those in need (intimidated PSNI officers, flood victims, Roma families) except when it is featured on the media.

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