Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Budget – oh please give us a break

WHEN it comes to the NI Executive budget there is a general theme emerging as we draw closer to the end of the consultation. We basically know that we’re all doomed, but one has to keep a watchful eye on the goings on at the Assembly.

On Tuesday (25 January) the Committee for Employment and Learning discussed the review of the Education Maintenance Allowance. Good deal, one thinks – as it is a topic that has exercised much discussion, not least amongst students.

But here’s the rub: they debated it in closed session according to the information published on the Assembly website.

One wonders what will be said behind firmly shut doors; and how this is a demonstration of open accountable democracy in action.

Quick, do a UUP headcount

MUCH as we’ve all been overtaken by events in the Republic of Ireland, it must come as a relief to Tom Elliott as he watches more departures from his party.

The latest departures are on Larne Council, and news that David McClarty is to run as an Independent, all would seem to add to the woes of Mr Elliott. At the Alliance Party conference two Westminster UUP candidates – Paul Bradshaw and Harry Hamilton – were visible and obviously afforded a warm welcome.

With such a background there has been much talk about electoral meltdown for the UUP. We, however, suspect that they will surprise a few doubters (no, we are not insane!).

Hear us out here: after they do a headcount of who is left in the UUP there is one obvious tactic guaranteed to have recalcitrant Ulster Unionist voters rushing to vote. It is the sympathy vote. Mr Elliott needs to go on air at every possible opportunities and gurns his wee lamps out (to coin a Belfast colloquialism). Claim that the political playground bullies are picking on him and every bleeding heart liberal will be backing him. That is, if they put aside his earlier gaffes on gays and the GAA…

Monday, 24 January 2011

Omens and portents

THERE has been a much-hyped fictional rubbish being peddled that 2012 will mark the end of the world, based on some obscure calendar. As with all these prophesies they generally fall short of evidence based on the fact that so far they have proved to be rubbish.

But, we are feeling a little nervous about 2012. Yes, omens and portents of strangeness are bounding about the world.

Think about it for a moment: the Alliance Party leader David Ford declared his party as the truly ‘radical’ party at his party conference at the weekend and no-one – inside or outside the conference hall – guffawed. A few sniggers yes, but had that been uttered by any Alliance leader before this, there would have been one of those laugh-out-loud moments much beloved by the LOL texters.

To add to the omens and portents there was the sight of Fine Gael leader (and Taoiseach in waiting?) Enda Kenny addressing the Alliance conference. Fine Gael do not strike many people as being the natural bedfellows of Alliance (one glance at party policies is enough to confirm that) but Enda was adamant about being mates with Alliance.

What with Brian quitting as chief blame taker in the Republic as the conference was still ongoing, we do fear that this congruence of coincidences may not be a mere statistical anomaly and is the first of the sets of omens and portents that will afflict politics before the world ends in 2012.

[Editor’s note: we do not in fact believe that the world will end in 2012 being rational human beings, but we fear that there may be mature political debate breaking out, thus leaving satirists and comedians struggling for material.]

Election ennui even before the election is called

WE have tried to diligently keep track of the comings and goings, and twists and turns of politics here in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, but frankly even political anoraks must be getting a wee bit bored now.

There are some who are whipping themselves into a frenzy over the whole state of affairs.

And we are reluctant to make any comment on the debacle that passes for politics in the Republic of Ireland as by the time we finish writing this paragraph things will have changed again.

So, we are already wondering how many others are becoming just a teeny bit bored by the electioneering in the undeclared electoral war in Northern Ireland – even if polling hostilities haven’t been officially declared.

If, as we suspect, the Assembly is dissolved on March 25th for the poll, then full-scale conflagration shall erupt across our airwaves.

We, therefore, suggest that you keep a track of the media electioneering you come across on the airwaves before that date; for no other purpose than to amuse yourself and shout at the TV in indignation, then slope away to your ‘tinterweb connection and vent some invective.

We do not condone electioneering and rants on comment sites, but we do condone you going online with the results of any informal survey you have made of electioneering.

We might try it ourselves but frankly we’re getting bored by all the tripe being put about already: if it was not for the fact that Assembly might actually get some real work done, such as passing the Budget, before it packs it in for full-on airwave rants then we might struggle to stay awake.