Friday, 4 December 2009

Crisis? What crisis?

THE ever more Monty Pythonesque ramblings of the political classes on the issue of policing and justice has moved towards what could be real rumbles of crisis – mutterings of elections and rumours of war on the stump.

And to add to the confusion, MLAs have been asked to name who they would want as our Justice Minister.

To summarise: Sinn Féin wants the devolution of policing and justice as a wee Christmas present. The DUP are saying ‘no way’ - policing and justice isn’t just for Christmas. They want greater community confidence and the Parade’s Commission emasculated, or something like that.

Meanwhile, the various spokespeople from both parties have been contributing to global warming – thanks to the amount of hot air they’ve been generating on the airwaves. Once in a while the other political parties manage to get a word in edgeways too!

So we are left with the deputy First Minister saying power-sharing is unsustainable and saying that a ‘full-blown crisis’ is on the way if a deal isn’t sorted.

Cheerful chappy Secretary of State Shaun Woodward threw his hat into the ring by saying that all was well, the Justice Bill was en route to Royal Assent and that in coming weeks it would all work out.

Here’s a cunning plan that will save the DUP blushes and get Sinn Féin out of its pre-Christmas bind…Announce the devolution on Christmas Eve at about 11pm, both parties take no phone calls until well into January and on about the 15th or 16th say that Jim Allister is to be the new Parade’s Commissioner.

Speaking of Jim…

WELL we know you weren’t, but a few BBC insiders are beginning to ask why Jim is getting so much airtime. He holds no mandate any more, yet seems to be on the Nolan Show and other outlets every time a show needs someone to wind up the audience. Should he be treated like another member of the public and not be called seeking comment. Then again he is the leader of a political party…of sorts.

Now there’s a word we haven’t heard for a while…

GERRYMANDERING – a word that has been absent from our political lexicon for a while now has made a return.

Sinn Féin has accused Environment Minister, Edwin Poots of trying to gerrymander local government boundaries under the Review of Public Administration.

The Minister says that if Sinn Féin doesn’t sign off on the new councils there may be trouble ahead.

The 26 councils into 11 model has been on the table for a while now, the Minister has cried wolf a few times, as have the Shinners on this issue.

But compared to policing and justice, they have in theory until 2011 to sort this out…loads of time!

Get out clause

MLAs were reluctant to set their own pay increase…so let someone else do the job.

Within 24 hours of deciding not to debate a suggested £7,000 pay hike per MLA, the House of Lords was considering the Northern Ireland Assembly Members Bill, which would give the Assembly the option to pass off salary consideration to an independent body.

Smooth move! Should they appoint such an independent body, MLAs could then say that any pay hike was set by someone else…hands clean etc.

But, was it a coincidence that this week it emerged that some civil servants get paid more than Ministers sitting in the Northern Ireland Executive.

Howls of indignation were rather muted from MLAs. Perhaps this was because they realised that the civil servants were actually required to do some work…and they have to put up with Ministers. Surely that’s deserving of a good pay packet!

Mr Popular

TURNS out that Sinn Féin ministers are rated as being impressive. In a poll hosted by a local snoozepaper Martin McGuinness scored a 27 per cent rating, a full 20 percentage points ahead of his OFMdFM mate Peter Robinson.

In fact his closest contender in the ‘impressive rating scale’ was party colleague Michelle Gildernew (10%) with the DUP’s Arlene Foster coming in third (9%).

But the really revealing statistic from the poll was that one in 10 of respondents when asked which Minister has impressed them said none of them.

In other words ten per cent thinks our hard working Executive isn’t very impressive after all. One can but wonder how they came to that conclusion!

Mr Popular got it wrong

MR Popular, Martin McGuinness got it wrong about education. Who says so? Well party colleague Jennifer McCann says so.

Back in 2002, when McGuinness had yet to ascend to the heights of deputy First Minister, he was a lowly education minister, and was the first to propose the end of the 11+ and academic selection.

There followed polls, surveys, enough reports to account for a small Scandinavian forest, but seven years later no resolution.

During a debate in a west Belfast catholic grammar school Ms McCann conceded the party should have had something in place before formalising the scrapping of the 11+.

That could be said to come into the category of political comment entitled: “Stating the Obvious”.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Soldiers of Destiny marching north?

WILL Fianna Fáil’s hand be forced into contesting elections in ‘Norn Iron’ following Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh’s joining the ‘Soldiers of Destiny’ with six more northern nationalist politicos tipped to join its ranks?

McHugh asserts that he has found his ‘natural home’ in Fianna Fáil. Strange that a man who cast aside the shackles of Sinn Féin - stating their acceptance of policing as ‘a factor’ in his resignation -should realign with a party that unequivocally accepts the rule of law.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA can now practice his politics within the realms of ‘The Republican Party’. But has McHugh decommissioned his anti-policing bias?

Is the FF leadership bothered? Nah. Hasn’t McHugh just joined some sort of FF forum in the north?

The party was quick to remind us that partition is alive and well on the island – “Fianna Fáil has no plans, at this stage, to be represented at elected-office level in Northern Ireland”.