IT has occurred to us that some readers are not the political anoraks that we fiercely deny we are...and that a beginner’s guide to Norn Iron politics might be useful.
On reflection even a beginner’s guide would fill more pages than we can really be bothered writing, what with all the excitement (not!) over the forthcoming raft of elections.
So we just decided to give those of you who have a life a wee glimpse at what the mighty law-dispensing body that is the Assembly has in store this week.
Well, there are a number of vitally important decisions that must, no really must be faced within the (teddy) bear pit - that is the fierce debates in the Northern Ireland Assembly chamber. Okay, they’re not that fierce, more like restrained distaste across the expanse of blue carpet.
After the statutory prayers today (Monday) there are such vital items for discussion as the Dogs (Amendment Bill) and the Second Stage of the Cyclists (Protective Headgear) Bill. Both worthy and necessary pieces of legislation; but if you were to look round the chamber you’d likely find a paltry show of MLAs.
There is also the wonderfully obtuse section of Assembly jargon with an item proposed that “this Assembly takes note of the Draft Budget announced on 15 December” by the venerable Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.
Take note – or randomly disagrees about everything that the DUP and Sinn Féin will agree on before deciding to pick on UU Health Minister Michael McGimpsey again.
On Tuesday things really hot-up with the Welfare Animals Bill, and the Consideration and Further Consideration, respectively of the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill and the Transport Bill.
But wait a minute! It’s easy to poke fun at our MLAs engaging in such debates; no honestly it’s really easy! But behind the veneer of idiocy there is some proper ‘work’ going on up at the Big House, such as the Safeguarding Bill to protect children and the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill protecting what’s left of our eco-system.
So why do our MLAs, even when it is not election season, seem determined to obscure the solid pieces of legislation that they and their officials undertake with shows of obdurate daftness when a microphone is waved before them? No party is blameless, so we suspect that it is a conspiracy. We’re not normally conspiracy theorists, but this one has the stench of implausible plausibility.
If we the great unwashed were to ever suspect that they were actually doing something meaningful we would have to consider voting on ISSUES. Rather than engaging in the sectarian headcount that passes for polls we would have to discuss ISSUES. And if we were to do that even Alliance might get a shout at an Executive seat...oops they already got that because the Assembly’s internal sectarian headcount couldn’t agree who was to get the poisoned justice chalice.