Friday, 1 April 2011

It’s bread and butter politics

FIRST Minister Peter Robinson claims that this will be the first set of Northern Ireland elections that deal with ‘everyday issues’.

On one level, our esteemed political commentators and pundits have been waxing lyrical about Peter’s implicit move to this stance as an indication of maturity from the DUP supremo, confident that the constitutional issue is resolved.

Amid pops at other parties, Mr Robinson – who once allegedly led men in berets up a hill – spoke about jobs, care for the elderly and generally issues that would accord him a position on the centre right if he was in any other country.

But Norn Iron is not any other country. Buckfast is regarded as a table wine in some parts, while less than a mile away only the finest Beaujolais will do; if riots were an Olympic sport we’d show Johnny Foreigner how to win a gold in throwing petrol bombs: yes Norn Iron is a wee bit different.

Only here would pictures of kids wearing balaclavas and toting AK47s appear in newspapers alongside wannabe fame babes and lifestyle columns. Only here would there be more Mercedes Benz and BMW’s per head of population than any other part of Europe, alongside soaring levels of child poverty.

So when Mr Robinson talks about everyday issues, he might care to remember that the vast, vast majority of the population has been getting on with everyday issues during the entire span of his political career.

The so-called bread and butter politics of health and social services, our segregated education system, community policing, creating jobs and manning the dole offices are the reality that never stops.

Like all the politicians standing for election, the DUP might care to speak to an electorate that has been less and less likely to make it way to the polling stations.

But then again seeing as there are three polls in one day perhaps we all just might turn out and vote on everyday issues. Now if only there was an everyday political party to vote for.

Questions, questions...

DEMOCRACY doesn’t come cheap. In fact it is damned expensive.

And we’re not talking about all that ballot box nonsense that rolls around every couple of years.

No we’re talking about the cost of answering questions MLAs pose of Executive ministers.

Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety Michael McGimpsey revealed – in answer to a written question - that written questions cost £300 to answer and oral answers cost £925 to answer.

It also emerged – in response to a written question - that 8,160 hours have been spent answering such questions. We were going to calculate all that out, but frankly our wee pocket calculator cannot cope with sums so big.

But it did come up with one answer we were initially confused with. At first we couldn’t understand the reading; we turned it this way and that, until we accidentally read it in the mirror. The answer it seems read like this: “This is the price of accountability”.

We wonder which ministers and which MLAs will be found accountable come May 5th.