Friday, 13 March 2009

Surreal week

NORTHERN Ireland’s political leaders sometimes provide more fodder for comment than any other group of individuals on the planet through their at times comedy rants and off-the-wall use of language.

And whenever they open their mouths to change feet, rest assured that there will be a radio phone-in audience ready to join in the bluster.

But this week, terrorism’s funereal reach once more rose from the mists of mutually assured community destruction to bring death and a strange period in politics.

Only the churlish and those determined to find fault could be less than impressed in the capacity of DUP, Sinn Féin, UUP, Alliance and SDLP to stand shoulder to shoulder in condemnation of the cold-blooded killers from the ranks of the so-called ‘dissident republicans’.

Yes, one could trudge through our recent blood-stained history to find fault in the personal biographies of many MLAs in the chamber. But that was yesterday’s news.

The news this week is that the elected politicians of all shades of green and hues of orange condemned the killers.

Only those of ill-temper sought to analyse the timing of Sinn Féin’s comments when the party acknowledged that the democratic process meant support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Only the very stupid could fail to acknowledge the personal political risk Peter Robinson took to stand shoulder to should with, metaphorically, his previously stated ‘enemy’. It would have been easier for him to distance himself.

Of course the cynic may say that now the parties have more to lose given that they are in power. In the past that hasn’t stopped them point scoring over gravestones.

That they did not struck some of us as surreal. We have indeed witnessed a powerful moment in the maturing of the political life of this small region.

Many people turned out on the streets of Belfast, Derry, Newry and Downpatrick in silent process to provide a voice for the majority and express their horror and anguish at the barbarous deeds of March 7th and 9th.

But somewhere, someone has not been offering sympathy, expressing horror. Someone is sheltering the killers. Someone knows their deeds and through their actions in sheltering them is complicit in murder. This tiny, stupid minority of murders and their minions gives lie to the fact that we are a peaceful community.

We are a community on a journey to peace. The thousands on the streets in solidarity with the bereaved and the political stance of our leaders have at last proved that we can be more confident on that journey towards a stable, prosperous society.

Until then, to the families of Constable Stephen Carroll, Sappers, Mark Quinsey, and Patrick Azimkar we tender our deepest condolences.

We echo the sentiments of Mrs Carroll who this week said that her husband’s death should not be wasted. We hope that the posthumous accolade that Constable Carroll, and Sappers Quinsey and Azimkar have is that their deaths ended the horror, brought politicians together and heralded a Northern Ireland fit for the 21st Century.

We’re leaving on a jetplane

FOR understandable reasons Peter Robinson and Martin McGuiness delayed their US trade mission. But when they finally left their first port-of-call was the land of illusion, Los Angeles.

For all the talk of economic downturn, Northern Ireland’s film industry has been a true success, with blockbusters and TV dramas produced and filmed here, often with ‘A’ list celebrity backing.

Despite the week’s bad news, the presence of the two ministers in the United States will
reassure doubters. Even better news was that “silicon valley executives” and venture capitalists and investors are to come to Belfast in October.

As both men commented, Northern Ireland has a positive story to tell in its burgeoning talent in software development; and we have a film industry that can tell any story.

The ever cheerful Finance Minister…

IT’S a dirty job but someone has to do it. Nigel Dodds must be feeling that he is doomed like some later day Ebeneezer Scrooge to deliver the bad news on spending cuts.

When he took over from Peter Robinson as finance Minister, the finances of NI PLC looked, if not healthy a far stretch away from ailing.

This week Dodds was warning, again, that the proposed cutbacks in public spending proposed by the Brown Junta, sorry Labour cabinet, would hamstring Northern Ireland’s economics.

Thankfully, the Finance Minister is claiming that what spending efficiencies NI PLC makes, we will be able to retain…

Now the principle is fine, but the mathematics must be arcane. Does this mean that if the public sector has £1 and it saves the Government decreed 3%, it gets to keep the 3p that would equate to. Which means by saving 3p it still has £1…

Government finances…such a tricky equation!

Door ajar for devolution of policing and justice

THE legislation that paves the way for the devolution of policing and justice this week received its Royal Assent.

With the demonstration of political solidarity and popular acclaim for peace, the wrinkles and wrangles to devolving law and order powers could have an impetus that previously didn’t exist.

Whereas there was an indeterminate period for it to happen before, perhaps a timescale can now finally be laid down.