Friday, 19 March 2010

Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right…

MONDAY’S weekly Assembly slanging match was all about the Education Minister ending the funding of preparatory schools this coming September.

The decision was greeted by howls of fury from any given unionist, plus mild grumping from the SDLP and Alliance.

Caitriona Ruane is once again proving herself to be a dab hand at annoying as many middle class people as she can.

But, one can’t but help wonder why the Unionist fury was so delayed. None of the political parties responded to the Department of Education’s public consultation on the issue. Jim Shannon did so, but as an individual MLA, not a party representative.

Seems they missed that consultation in the same way that Caitriona Ruane missed out on consulting the Children’s Commissioner, children, young people, pupils at preps, in fact pretty much a fair swathe of people who might genuinely have something to say on her proposed decision.
In the debate, Minister Ruane was accused of launching an ideological Jihad, which her Rottweiler-in-chief John O’Dowd was quick to dismiss with more verbal brickbats returned across the chamber.

Here’s a quick summary of what’s happening on the education front: academic selection is ending, but it’s not ending; some Roman Catholic schools are amalgamating, but some aren’t; some children know which primary school they will be going to in September and some don’t …

Education in Northern Ireland…where the children are stuck in the middle!

Suitable replacement

WHEN it comes to finding a suitable replacement for Iris Robinson, it seems that one of the key criteria is the ability to get turfed out of Assembly debates.

Step forward one Jonathan Bell. Barely 12 weeks into being an MLA, he gets kicked out of a debate on preparatory school funding, after accusing Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane of ‘misleading’ the chamber.

Nice work Mr Bell, nice to see you’re keeping Iris’s record of ejections running. What next?

Bejaysus, Begorrah, where did all the politicians go?

SURE when it comes to the day celebrating the patron saint of Ireland the best place to celebrate it is in either the Holy Lands (near Queen’s Uni not Jerusalem!) or in…the good ole US of A.

Pilgrimage to Slemish? Picnic in Downpatrick? Trek to Armagh? Not a bit of it!

When it comes to St Patrick’s Day, the best place for party leaders and assorted MLAs to have a row is in America.

There, they can share a smile, glad-hand investors or even soak up what real politics is all about.

And, away from critical eyes they can even (whisper it softly) be seen to be getting along!
Well, apart from the sociable Social Development Minister, and SDLP leader, Margaret Ritchie.

Ms Ritchie felt slighted that she wasn’t scheduled to press the flesh with President Obama.
Cue media storm in an eggcup and Barack finally meeting her with a delegation from the Republic, who were also not in Ireland on the day, celebrating the patron saint of Ireland.

Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuiness said that Ms Ritchie was being a bit ‘silly’.

Hold the front pages! A Northern Ireland politician being ‘silly’ shocker! Well it beats the usual benchmark of being stubborn, obstinate and darn right confrontational.

Addressing our politicians and others assembled in the White House for St Patrick’s Day, Obama saluted the “outstanding leadership” of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness…

Perhaps the President has missed the past year’s BBC news reports of the fun and games at Stormont…surely you remember the ill-tempered exchanges; the failure to find agreement until a fudge could be worked out that wasn’t too sickly sweet for either side; long nights sampling Shaun Woodward’s hospitality at Hillsborough; and generally accusing each other of being prats…
Perhaps Mr Obama believes a leprechaun made up all the nonsense, because these two party leaders appeared to be on their best behaviour, almost friendly towards each other.

Popping down for a video

IT used to be that when you wanted to catch a film that you had missed at the cinema you nipped down to your local video store rented the film and popped it into the old video cassette recorder.

With the advent of satellite and cable TV and downloadable films, the days of the video recorder are numbered.

But, the DUP have discovered that video has new and interesting uses that don’t involve all that tedious nipping down to the shops.

Environment Minister Edwin Poots wants to use the power of video to stop all that tedious nipping down to Dublin.

Edwin wants to use the power of video conferencing to avoid face-to-face meetings of the North South Ministerial Council.

And as Environment Minister it makes perfect sense for him to cut down on the old carbon footprint.

What next – a culture minister doing cultural things, or maybe even a Social Development Minister being sociable…