BEING amused is a charge rarely levelled at the level-headed Minister for Social Justice, Alex Attwood. And, he is less than amused – not even breaking into a half-grin – when talking about proposed reforms to the welfare system.
After a meeting with the visiting Tory representative for right-on, right of centre caring, Iain Duncan Smith, Mr Attwood harrumphed and said that we’re special over here. In some schools being labelled as ‘special’ can lead to bullying. In enlightened educational establishments being labelled ‘special’ means that you are provided with support and care to enable you to achieve...
So, is Mr Attwood arguing that we are the UK’s ‘Special Needs’ country, requiring a classroom assistant and someone to make sure we pay attention, even when our condition means we can't concentrate in classes like economics?
No-one is arguing that Northern Ireland’s situation is not unique in the UK (although the North East and many parts north of the Watford Gap could argue similarly). But by self-consciously arguing that we need special treatment there will come a time when it is argued that we no longer need help, with all the wailing and gnashing of soundbites from MLAs that is sure to follow
Also, the inevitable consequence is that we are seen as ‘drain on the public purse’, as a dependent state; dependent on help from Westminster, Washington or even, heaven forbid, the Dáil.
But, as every parent knows there comes a time when your dependent child must step up and fend for themselves economically. When will our turn come?