Friday, 29 October 2010

According to my script...

THERE are times when our esteemed political figures in the Northern Ireland Assembly bat around clichés and trot out party lines that it all becomes a wee bit embarrassing for even the most jaded political hack.

Perhaps they would benefit from the advice of Red Ed Milliband’s advisors who suggested that in Prime Minister’s Question Time there should be “cheer lines” for points made.

But then take a serious look around the Assembly chamber when in session: apart from the occasional rant-a-long around budgets there aren’t enough members on the benches to even raise a cheer, let alone a celebratory Mexican wave at having collected another week’s wages.

Milliband’s advisers could have had slightly red faces when their advice was leaked, but such is the chaos of PMQ’s that Ed managed to crack off enough attacks that the BBC led several news bulletins with his jibes on housing benefit.

The collective witticisms in the Assembly on the other hand this week were left to Sammy Wilson, who obviously remembers his days as a teacher in trying to calm down unruly classes.

And let’s face the unsavoury fact here, at the best of times our MLAs are glum looking lot; as the UUP fortunes have declined in recent years it seems that the rest of the parties have taken on the mantle of dour bunch of so-and-so’s. The future isn’t exactly bright, but as Monty Python advised us all, we can always look on the bright side of life.

Shuffling the deck chairs

IT is cruel to say it, but we’re going to say it anyway...Danny Kennedy has about six months to make his mark as a Minister.

Handed the sacred chalice of Minister for Employment and Learning by new party supremo Tom Elliott, he now must deal with the university funding crisis, lengthening dole queues of ex-public sector employees and burgeoning NEETS.

Now NEETs are an unfortunate term for those Not in Employment, Education or Training; which at around certain times of the day seems like half of Belfast and Derry.

So, with Danny a Minister and Tom now chairing the committee that keeps a beady eye on the First Minister and deputy First Minister it’s all change for the UUP.

But in a gesture towards erstwhile rivals, John McCallister has been given the deputy leader mantle, even though he was a fervent backer of Basil McCrea for the leadership of the party.

There is a slightly edgy feeling about the party – yes the leadership uncertainty is over, but with various selections and de-selections, can the new look leadership from the man from the west of the Bann (Tom Elliott) really take hold or is it shuffling the proverbial deckchairs as the ships slowly slides beneath the cold waves of political obscurity.

Half-term hi-jinks

TO listen to some radio reports one would have thought that Northern Ireland had once descended into a Latin American state of civil war.

Yes, cars and buses were burnt, and a bus driver suffered serious injuries, but Rathcoole and Cloughfern rioters were hardly on a scale that rivals Beirut or even Belfast in the 70s and 80s.

And it is half term and the teachers obviously didn’t set enough homework so the youngsters need something to fill their evenings with.

Step forward the brave men of the UVF; men who cite the balaclava as their favourite fashion item, to cajole their young charges to take assertive action.

One can only suspect that they have one or two main reasons for this: either to head off embarrassing PSNI enquiries that the Historical Enquiries Team thought were relevant; or to try and hide drug dealing.

Either way it was slightly amazing that the PSNI ended up being criticised.

First radio talk shows had a go, then amid accusations that the PSNI were heavy handed the DUP announced they were to meet senior officers.

We are slightly amazed – it is the sort of thing that Sinn Féin used to recite parrot like after every riot. Short summary: rioters take to the street; property destroyed; petrol bombs hurled, guns waved by masked cowards...the illogical conclusion is that it was all the police’s fault all along.

Now here’s the obvious solution. After each and every riot – sorry civil disturbance – a PSNI volunteer officer should take the blame and a suspension on full pay while an investigation is carried out to say that he or she should receive a slap on the wrist. Meanwhile thousands upon thousands of pounds are to be poured from the public purse to clean up the damage caused by the rioters with a ‘fair’ proportion of the cash going to the ‘community representatives’ who will make sure that there is restorative justice for those young people who break wind near a pensioner while ignoring said ‘justice’ when the young people are doing their riot work.

Such has it been in the past, so it shall be now. Verily we say to thee: Norn Iron’s a weird wee place.

And, by the way, while 200 people rioted 1,699,800 did not: that last statistic is just in case any foreign direct investors are reading (and if they are we have a few wee projects that could do with a cash boost!)

(Credit for photo -

Electric politics

THE Ministers of Environment and Regional Development have come up with a cunning wheeze to stave off global warming and save thousands of pounds of motorist’s fuel bills with a bid to have electric car fuelling points (that is plugs!) across Northern Ireland.

We say yes to this innovative approach...errr well we sort of do! The Minister of the Environment is hardly known as a massive mate of the green movement, nor are his party colleagues such as the Finance Minister. And did the Minister for Regional Development sign up just because he saw the word “green” in the press release?

Whatever the reasoning, we do wonder whether they bothered to ask the brains in the country (those in our universities not doing media or politics degrees) whether this was really the best way forward, or whether hydrogen cell cars were more environmentally friendly?

But we suspect that the real solution to solving the carbon crisis is to find a way to tap the hot air generated by MLAs. Once that is achieved we can even sell-off said hot air and be a net exporter of hot air, as opposed to direct rule days when we were a net importer of hot air.

Tapping the collective carbon dioxide deposits generated by MLAs and culling the dozens of ministerial press release writers will probably save planet earth, by offsetting the entire CO2 production of China and India combined!

However, in the interests of being a ‘right on’, animal friendly, anti-cruelty column we urge that the culling of press officers is done in a humane manner, without the use of clubs or big sticks of any kind. And the journalists unable to cope without a daily fix from Government press releases should have state-sponsored counselling to help them cope!