Friday, 4 February 2011

In case you’ve forgotten…

JUST in case you have forgotten, the education post-primary school transfer debacle has yet to be resolved.

As thousands of pupils ponder their results, and others wonder whether they should have done the test, or are relived that they have not had to go through it, a resolution to the transfer conundrum has not been reached.

We still have an Education Minister entrenched in her position. Caitriona Ruane issued a press release on Thursday, which on the one hand offered her best wishes to pupils who went through the tests and on the other hand said children should be able to choose their school without “any process of selection/rejection”.

On the other side, we have the equally entrenched positions of the unionists, who are of the school of thought, much like Ms Ruane that they shall not be moved.

Which, of course, leaves the children stuck in the middle…

As if this wasn’t enough, trade unions waded into the education debate this week, but not about transfer tests. Instead the issue was the teacher redundancies. There were charges about scaremongering and debate on the air, and then who should row into the phone-in debate?

Of course, it was Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd and from the DUP’s Mervyn Storey.
Was that absolutely predictable or are we becoming increasingly cynical that everything to do with education will see a Punch and Judy knockabout verging on the ridiculous.

It is perhaps an idiotic dream, but come May, when election fever and general stupidity dies down there will be calm, sober reflection. Maybe all the political parties will sit down and come to some consensus on transfer tests, the Education Skills Authority, the funding crisis, segregated education and the crumbling school estate – but then we wake up and realise that it will be the same entrenched sides…

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Oh for goodness sake just go!

PARLIAMENTARIANS must have wished that Gerry Adams would just go, leave the tag of elected representative for the West Belfast Westminster seat behind (in practice, the SF President wasn’t an MP as he never took his seat in Parliament).

Instead the world (well those darned political anoraks...) marvelled at the 17th Century history of the Chiltern Hundreds, it’s use during the mass unionist Anglo-Irish agreement huff in the 80s, and how it was an ‘office of the crown’.

The whole giggle of Gerry packing it in but having difficulty getting his P45 for potentially handing into the Dail must have passed by those half aware MPs.

Some like to refer to Westminster as the Mother of Parliaments. This anachronistic chaos proved that in this case, the Mother was not wedded to the Father of Parliaments as it raised a bastard set of rules not fit for its 21st Century inheritors.

C’Mon, why not just everyone don cloaks and wigs, smoke corn pipes and murmur knowingly about cotton prices. That would make at least some sense.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Welcome to the crazy world of Norn Iron politics

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.