Friday, 20 March 2009

Welcome to Springfield…

IN a much trailed ‘World First’, Sky broadcast, on St Patrick’s Day, an episode of The Simpsons before it had been seen in the United States. Meanwhile our own Homer and Ned (you decide which is the First and which is the Deputy First Minister…) were in the US.

At least President Obama caught the mood when he advised those present not to don lampshades lest a photographer grab a shot.

And then in a storyline that could have been from The Simpsons the Taioseach, Brian Cowen, read some of President Obama’s lines from the White House teleprompter.

The Battle of Carmel Street

If the Taioseach’s faux pas was almost living up to the Irish stereotype, back on terra firma the stereotype of ‘the drunken Irish’ was in full flow during the Battle of Carmel Street.

St Patrick’s Day celebrations took on an ugly demeanour when on-street drinking got seriously out of hand and police in riot gear were pelted by bottles and cans.

With the Assembly in recess, righteous indignation was largely restricted to the talk shows and the internet.

The puzzle for all who watched the debacle of the streets around Belfast’s Holy Land was how many of the drunken revellers were politics students? Nice to see that standards are being kept suitably low.

But, the real question is, how will any future devolved policing ministry manage the fall-out from St Patrick’s Day revelry? In other words… will they appear on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show?

Set your examinations in Irish

Roll-up, roll-up come see the show that never ends! Never mind The Simpsons, Northern Ireland has its own long-running comedy show, called education. Each and every episode is packed with slapstick set-pieces, ridiculous jokes and poker-faced straight men and women who are the butt of jibes.

Heck, it makes the surreal animation of life in a small US town seem calm and reasonable.
To recap, some of the latest season highlights from the NI Education show would take an essay a week, so a précis will have to do.

First up is the claim that under equality law grammar schools wanting to set their own entrance tests will have to produce them in Irish otherwise parents in Irish Medium primary schools would have a potential legal case.

Next up is the complaint from the Catholic Church that the new Education and Skills Authority would remove any say the Church might have had.

Then the mainstream churches called, together with the Education Committee, for a three-year delay to help everyone settle themselves, and use a transfer test until then.

And then….so it goes on. Funny thing is that the only people not laughing at the education sitcom are the parents of primary schoolchildren, and the children themselves.

On the road with the Assembly

It is usually only the knockabout stand-up comedy of the Assembly that hits the airwaves. Rumours, however, still abound that real work is occasionally done by Ministers and MLAs.

To prove that this rumour is based on fact the Assembly has hit the road around Northern Ireland with a series of road shows. Assembly officials and MLAs will explain the work being done up at the Big House and answer questions.

Even more ambitiously the Assembly now has its own Twitter feed. Now for those who aren’t ‘Twits’ yet, this means that the Assembly posts ‘Tweets’ (like a blog only smaller) about what’s going on. To find out more you’ll have to have a free account at and sign on to follow the NI Assembly.

Strange thing is that it is easier to navigate round the Assembly website using their tweets…

Abortion law guidelines published

Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation is different to other parts of the UK. Some time ago a court ruled that the NI Department of Health should issue clear guidelines on the law.

Now it appears that, with the backing of a recent Executive meeting, said guidance has made it out to health trusts and doctors.

Funny thing is that there is not a press release issued by the Department, nor is there a mention of this on its website. Thanks to links on news websites you can find the guidance letter, but as this is guidance to professionals to be disseminated by trusts, the public (and in this case expectant parents) have been by-passed.

This is much like the scriptwriters of The Simpsons producing their best ever episode but deciding that the wit is above their viewers.