Monday, 17 October 2011

Oh do behave!

THE ability for Norn Iron’s politicians to behave as clowns for the entertainment of the chittering and chattering classes has no bounds.

Whoever is in the Assembly speaker’s chair has to contend with TUV leader Jim Allister for a start – the politician with more red cards than Wayne Rooney. They also have to contend with people shouting, people making statements while sitting (a definite parliamentary no-no), people making statements instead of asking questions and at least one other language.

Deputy speaker Roy Beggs showed a red card to Dominic Bradley last week, who was asking a question/making a statement/ordering lunch in Irish but refusing to translate his words into English. While some other Gaeilge speakers in the chamber could understand Mr Bradley’s point, frankly we couldn’t really be bothered, when the comedy value of another MLA getting a red card was out there.

Of course, there was no real sanction. Not being able to speak in plenary sessions is a skill many an MLA has acquired and judging by the empty benches during debates, attending challenges more than a few.

So what would be a real sanction for an MLA? A cut in wages for a week or month or a fine should be one option. Repeat offenders could be made to apologise publicly to their party Assembly grouping, or better still their constituents?

But all of this belies the fact that most MLAs manage to work hard, both in committees and on behalf of constituents.

While much has been done to profile the Assembly and educate the population on its structures we feel that the real problem is that MLAs never really explain their work or profile their jobs. We fear that no amount of money could hire Max Clifford or other PR publicists to tackle that Herculean job!

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