Friday, 13 November 2009

“It’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine”

IT’S the end of days, it’s the start of days. Are we entering into another period of uncertainty on the future of the Assembly? Are we looking forward to the white heat of political debate before settling down to mature politics? Are we just getting totally fed up with politics?

Instalment 455 of the ongoing saga of the devolution of policing and justice was played out on the airwaves this week and in the Assembly chamber at Parliament Buildings.

One has to wonder whether the main actors really are attempting to prove they are caricatures of themselves.

Sinn Féin say get on with it or there will be ‘trouble’. DUP find more ‘conditions’ to restore “community confidence” and get tangled up on whether retention of the full-time reserve was part of building said confidence.

Rather than inviting the politicians on to their shows again, broadcasters should just replay the interviews from the week before. No-one would know the difference.

But, surely it’s time for the ‘major players’ to, in Belfast parlance, wind their necks in and get on with it.

Rather than running to Uncle Gordy once a week and playing ‘I can be more indignant than you’ on The Nolan Show, here’s an idea: lock four MLAs from each ‘side’ in a room, with no access to expenses forms, and release them when they come up with a way forward.

Big Mac back?

THE Traditional Unionist Voice held its party conference last week. And it was the legal eagles who were soaring with rhetoric. Not only was barrister and TUV leader Jim Allister regaling the gathered members on why everyone was wrong except him, but fellow whig and former UK Unionist leader Robert McCartney appeared.

His brief was to speak about the education debacle. But Big Mac couldn’t resist a commentary on the current situation.

For TUV applauding delegates it would be a good time to recall that Big Mac was meant to deliver a Mad Max style devastating blow to the political elites when he ran in every constituency of Northern Ireland once upon a time. It didn’t quite work out that way.

Lines on a map

COLOURED crayons are to be outlawed at Stormont. MLAs have been calculating just what way council boundaries are to fall, if the 26 into 11 equation on local government is to work out.

Edwin Poots, Minister for the Environment, is threatening to take away the all the parties’ crayons and coloured pencils and if they don’t stop their colouring in, there will be no Review of Public Administration savings in local government.

And, there will be a new council election next year when the General Election rolls round.

So far, RPA has delivered on reform in health and personal social services (well sort of). Plans to set up a new Education and Skills Authority have stalled with the Education Bill in limbo. And now councils may not be reformed.

C’mon guys! Let’s make it three elections in May – that way all you MLAs can stop worrying about legislation and reform and shout at each other until about September…oh, you’re already doing that! Sorry!

Jersey language joy?

FRIDAY the 13th and the 13th British Irish Council summit is taking place in Jersey. The theme is indigenous, minority and lesser used languages.

Attending are the First and deputy First Ministers a.k.a. Robbo and Marty.

Not that we are in anyway superstitious but, with stalled progress on an Irish Language Act and the dispute over whether Ulster Scots is a language or dialect, surely they are tempting fate trying to move on this ill-starred date and bad luck numbered meeting. These less than favourable indicators may mean there is progress.

This would of course be a stroke of ill fortune, if the First Minister and deputy First Minister have to explain to voters why they actually agreed on something…

No iceberg in sight

BELFAST’S claim to fame – apart from the Troubles – was a ship that sank. The Titanic went down with 1,000 souls in 1912, thereby forever making shipbuilding here synonymous with disaster, despite the Harland and Wolff being a world leader in the industry at the time.

The very name Titanic conjures up images of heroism and tragedy, hubris gone awry and selfishness and selflessness sitting in the same lifeboat.

But, with the imagery so strong the Titanic name has, as has oft been said, got global tourist potential.

That makes it all the more amazing that the saga of the SS Nomadic, the tender that brought well-heeled passengers to the doomed liner, is making, with the usual Northern Ireland zeal, a drama out of a crisis.

In short, the SS Nomadic was rescued from the sea’s version of the knacker’s yard, and brought back to Belfast, where it was originally built.

It has languished ever since, with funding rows and the potential for a tourism bonanza in 2012 – the anniversary of the iceberg incident – and a bill of £7m being touted to refurbish the Nomadic.

The £7m bill to taxpayers may seem a little steep, but would it be better to get it done rather than this constant uncertainty. In other words, let the Executive do something that will cost a bit, but have benefits for all.

Harmony ends at NIMIC

THE Northern Ireland Music Industry Commission board has broken up in disharmony. Whether anyone will really notice remains to be seen, but it is an example of good work gone awry.

Set-up in 2001, the Commission managed to showcase some local acts at high-profile events such as festivals in Texas and Northern Ireland music nights in London.

But, in its eight years did it propel any local acts to global recognition? Did the Arts Council and Invest NI involvement actually get the world rocking to the ‘Norn Iron’ beat? Or more to the point, did Terri Hooley achieve more for local music in a few short years in the late 70s? In other words is a motivated individual better than a board or commission?

The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, Van Morrison, Snow Patrol, Ash are names recognised throughout the UK and in some cases globally. So, exactly how did a Commission help these talented acts? And, how did Invest NI hope to measure ‘job creation’ through music? Sound engineers, lighting experts yes, but the distorted guitar lines and thrashing of drums are not easily reflected on a spreadsheet.

What we can’t wait for is the Public Accounts Committee investigation with evidence direct from the mosh pit!