Friday, 23 July 2010

Agreement…what’s that again?

IT seems quite remarkable that the political classes ever agreed about anything apart from expenses, let alone the constitutional future of Northern Ireland.

To judge the levels of disagreement one only needs to look at the responses to the Eames Bradley report – otherwise known as the report from the Consultative Group on the Past.

This week the responses were published to the 31 proposals from the report which was completed in January last year.

While almost everyone disagreed with the reports recommendations, their alternatives vary so widely that it seems that the ‘past’ is a country where we will never visit at the same time, or with the same intent.

The ‘Legacy Commission’ proposed in the Eames Bradley report is so variously interpreted that it is easy to assume that no-one really has a clue about what to do, nor are they prepared to ‘walk a mile’ in their political rivals shoes.

Therefore, with no realistic chance of such a ‘commission’ being created anytime soon, there is one simple proposal that should sort things out: appoint Billy Connolly, Russell Brand, Eddie Izzard, Ed Byrne, and Frankie Boyle to investigate the ‘Troubles’. Anything else would be seen as just having a laugh.

Going green...we don’t think so!

SEEMINGLY a long time ago, when he was Environment Minister, Sammy Wilson had a wee hissy fit about whether human actions could affect climate change.

Now, it seems that the watchdog that was intended to make sure the Northern Ireland Executive kept to its sustainability targets is to be wound up.

UK-wide cuts mean that the Sustainable Development Commission may close its doors soon. The Northern Ireland branch is part-funded by the UK Government and part funded by the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister.

The only lifeline for the commission appears to be if the Northern Ireland side of the funding equation increases its investment. Given that Minister Wilson now holds the purse strings that might be a difficult sell.

While the Executive ponders this potential cut, it is worth looking at what happens if the Commission is wound up. Then the only body keeping track of whether we are keeping our environmental and sustainable promises will be in Europe. And errr… they tend to impose fines when we don’t.

Talking rubbish

THERE is a wee bit of a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) culture amongst the Northern Ireland political classes.

The latest NIMBY example is concerning waste incineration.

Anyone who looks at the total rubbish and waste we fail to recycle in Northern Ireland, and that which can’t be recycled, will realise that we need to do something with it.

Given that using Lough Neagh as a superdump is a no-go, as was devoting vast swathes of South Armagh to legalise illegal dumping, means another solution had to be found.

First up for a waste incineration site was on the north foreshore of Belfast Lough. That was quickly shot down. The next up is a site just to the north of Belfast, but within Antrim Borough Council’s boundaries.

Ulster Unionist MLA, Danny Kinahan has called for clarity from Environment Minister, Edwin Poots on what exactly are the pros and cons of waste incineration.

This, of course, is what could be the first shot in a bout of NIMBY politics, but we’ll give Mr Kinahan the benefit of the doubt.

And, we should perhaps ask all politicians to think before opening their mouth to change feet. Do they wish to critically analyse the evidence for any proposal? Or do they want to pander to the gallery?

Here’s the scenarios: your local hospital is closing a department because of lack of trained and trainee staff. Do you (a) examine reports from Royal Colleges and medical experts, or (b) start painting a banner and join a picket. In ‘Scenario Two: A waste incineration site is to replace a landfill. Do you (a) spend a wee bit of time looking at scientific and engineering research, reports and evidence, or (b) start painting a banner and join a picket.

Option (a) takes a wee bit too much time out of an MLA’s hectic diary. And, given that we are already all thinking about the forthcoming election, well it will have to be option (b) then!

Not enough parties

IT seems that we currently don’t have enough political parties in Northern Ireland.

This became clear a couple of years back when the Tories arrived, albeit linking up with the UUP.

Still the feeling persisted to nag at political commentators that we simply don’t have enough political parties.

But, don’t fret, there is another one joining the fray! Fianna Fail has turned up with a new office in Crossmaglen. Okay, if you live in Northern Ireland you can’t technically vote for Fianna Fail, but hey it’s the thought that counts.

And, I’m sure that Margaret Ritchie was only kidding when she said that there would be no merger between the SDLP and Fianna Fail ‘on her watch’.

Politics in Northern Ireland – what we really need is not yet more mergers, link ups and new political parties: what we need is an all-night party!