Friday, 4 September 2009

Penalty kick…

The old saying that too often applies to politics in Northern Ireland is that you couldn’t make this stuff up. And you really couldn’t make up the Busman’s Holiday that four of our local MLAs are undertaking.

Given the quips, jests and venomous slagging undertaken by MLAs, it should come as no surprise to find out that Democratic Unionist Sammy Wilson, the SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell, Sinn Féin’s Barry McElduff and Ulster Unionist Basil McCrea are to take to the stage with a stand-up comedy routine.

Surely it’s just a change of venue as this fearsome foursome try to fumble the funny bone of laughter...September 25th is the date. The Ramada Encore is the venue.

Speaking of the SDLP

Okay, we know you weren’t but we are now. One of the giggling gaggle of MLAs mentioned above has been gagging with vitriol this week.

Alasdair McDonnell launched an unrestrained attack on Sinn Féin, resulting in acres of newsprint, radio phone ins and a hysterical (in both senses of the word!) debate on the blogosphere.

The thrust of the criticism from South Belfast MP is that Sinn Féin are acting in a spirit of self-preservation rather than fostering democracy and debate. He claimed that the party has helped create a dual dictatorship with their Executive co-conspirators, the DUP.

Now, it may be just a coincidence…and sometimes coincidences do happen in politics – but Fianna Fail hinted this week that their potential foray on to the hustings may be rejuvenated.

So Fianna Fail is on shaky ground in government in Dublin; the SDLP wants more seats on the Executive at the next election…so let’s all pick on Sinn Féin!

Or maybe Dr McDonnell simply believes a bit of ‘Shinner’ bashing will go down well with unionist voters in the leafy suburbs of south Belfast, ahead of the Westminster poll.

A stand-up routine including Alasdair McDonnell and Barry McElduff…could be interesting.

Lost a councillor?

Have you spotted a stray councillor wandering the streets of Fermanagh? Answering to the name Domhnall O’Cobhthaigh, he was last seen cuddling up the Socialist Party and complaining that his former Sinn Féin masters just weren’t looking after the working man.

If you see Domhnall, call Connolly House and help them retrieve their wayward son.

How many victims groups are there in Northern Ireland?

It is perhaps a rhetorical device to ask how many victims’ groups there are in Northern Ireland, much like counting angels on a pinhead. It is almost as difficult as guessing how many rehashed policies the Tories and Labour will produce before the next general election.

This week, the Victims Commissioners announced the establishment of a Victims Forum made up of 30 ‘victims’ of the Troubles, including ex-paramilitaries and ex-security force personnel.

And, true to form (in Northern Ireland), there were rumblings of discontent from forum members before it has had its first meeting.

Trying to wade through the multifarious victims’ groups in Northern Ireland produces more than 3 million results, so how were the 30 new forum members chosen? It seems it could have been done like a Facebook befriending campaign ‘You have been invited to join the Victims Forum’.
There was to be one victims commissioner, instead there are four. We now have 30 individuals - handpicked by these same commissioners – tasked with advising the commissioners on what it is to be a victim of the Troubles.

But the real burning question is…where has the apostrophe gone? Even the usually pedantic staff at the Beeb have dropped the apostrophe from Victims Commission and Victims Forum.

Without the apostrophe, of course, this means that there is no possessive; which by tortured and excessive examination of grammar (or at least what grammar we remember from school!) means that neither the forum or the commission ‘belongs to’ or is ‘for’ victims.

The real owners of the forum, commission etc etc are the media. How else are they to fill the airwaves? Report on real news? Properly cross-examine politicians? Nah, soundbite hell from the usual suspects, while too many victims suffer in silence…

Education leaflet

Before the summer break, we commented on the chaos of trying to understand the best way to get a P7 pupil transferred in to post-primary education.

Those warriors of prose and disciples of the comprehensive at the Department of Education, have now produced a leaflet. Yes a leaflet. Described by proponents of testing as ‘helpful’, it contains information.

The system is still a mess, but now we have information on the mess.

Resolution between the DUP and Sinn Féin on education…now that’s a stand-up routine all by itself.