Thursday, 21 April 2011

Promises, promises...don’t give me your promises! #ae11

YOU really know when an election is in full swing! It’s when parties can make a whole series of empty promises. Yes, roll-up, roll-up to hear how all the problems of Norn Iron can be solved by just voting for the party that promises the most!

This week we have the DUP saying there will be no increase in student fees and no water charges. Sammy Wilson may be the prophet of economic doom before the election, but largesse seems to have been found somewhere.

We do wonder what sort of cuts elsewhere will need to be made to pay for this, and whether his future party colleagues will agree to these.

And, Sinn Féin is in on the act too now. They’re promising a referendum on a united Ireland, knowing full well that it will not gain the necessary cross-community backing. That’s not to mention aiming for an all-island health service free at the point of delivery, despite knowing that the Dáil will need several months of cutting everything to be able to afford a fraction of the cost involved in realising this. An unlikely scenario, given the crippling debt repayments the country is having to make thanks to the profligacy of its banks.

So, if you believe these promises – along with the bright shiny talk emanating from the other parties – we urge you to remember the last Executive. Round that big table at Stormont Castle parties had difficulty agreeing and taking decisions on a number of big ticket issues; the future of our children’s education, local government reform, ending double jobbing... When a prospective MLA comes round your door, don’t ask them their policies or promises. Instead ask them if they think they can get their coalition colleagues to agree with them. Expect a fudged answer at best.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Windmills at Stormont! #ae11

THE Green Party has declared that Norn Iron can be a low-carbon region. While this is laudable, it does not make any recommendations as to how we can reduce the global warming caused by the hot air spewing forth from Parliament Buildings during plenary debates!

During an idle moment we considered the options.

Not to state the obvious, but despite recent appearance of the big shiny ball in the sky, solar power isn’t really a runner for much of our energy needs.

However, there two weather elements that we have in copious quantities – wind and rain. Starter for 10 – every new home has to have a big barrel that’s contents are used for flushing the loo. Wait until our politicians do their sums again and realise they need to charge us for water, before Norn Iron goes broke; you’ll see a rush on rain barrels.

Which leads us on to wind power. While there are some funky wind farms out there and others being planned, we think that we can make savings by using small ideas. Remember as a child you had the wee windmills on the end of a plastic stick? You don’t – childhood poverty must go back a few years!

Well, to cut to the chase, the walk up to Parliament Buildings is cold and windy most of the year; so fit hundreds if not thousands of these wee windmills along the way, each connected to a rechargeable battery. Simple – MLAs could even use these batteries to keep their mobile phones charged the next time they feel the need to call Stephen Nolan...

All of this was going to be a lead up to a literary reference about spotting which Assembly candidate has been tilting at windmills, but instead it is an allusion to the fact that like it or not, the economy will need to be top of the agenda, if the new Executive is to keep even half the promises being made during this election!

Confused? You’re not alone!

WE believed with all sincerity that the forthcoming convergence of Assembly and council elections was a good thing, but now we’re worried about the poor voter.

Adorning lampposts across Norn Iron is the usual kaleidoscope of party contenders. On a short journey across varied highways and byways we spotted a variety of party hopefuls.

In some areas, parties have two lists of candidates on the same lamppost, and other areas the same candidates are running as Assembly candidates and council candidates (we got that from the post from Mark McGregor and subsequent debate on Slugger O’Toole).

Which means that the poor voter will be confronted with a two different ballot papers; sometimes with completely different names, and sometimes with the same names?

But we have a cunning plan. In four years time, they’ll have to pick one or the other! What! Has that been suggested already? Oh, so it has! And rejected... Ho Hum, another cunning plan then: when the parties have had their fun, we’ll cut the number of local councils! What! Has this been suggested already? Oh, so it has! And rejected...Ho Hum, our last attempt at a cunning plan then: MLAs to actually make a decision! Now that really would be something worth voting for!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

From whence the mainstream emerged

FOR years and years anoraks across the land have been predicting the end of mainstream journalism; when a cast of thousands of citizen journalists (a.k.a. anoraks) will tell the tales that the newspapers and broadcast media have neither the time nor the inclination to cover.

Like all the ‘truths’ told in Norn Iron, it is only half the truth and less than a quarter of the facts.

Blogs, comment boards, Twitter, Facebook and every other half popular social media outlet has been pouring from the keyboards of frustrated so-called experts with increasing fervour and vitriol since the Obama election was proclaimed by those who ran out of hyperbole as the web2.0 election.

While the Westminster election acted as the warm-up here, this time Norn Iron has been deluged by every sort of commentator making the cross-over between social and mainstream media as the Assembly elections draw ever closer – not to mention the local government polls and AV referendum.

While the journey leaders of Mark Devenport at the BBC and Mick Fealty and his cohorts on Slugger O’Toole have been blogging for years, we have now a raft of Tweet Ups, UTV specials, Nolan Show and Talkback Twitter comments, party tweet ups and a clamour to integrate and populate the debate.

Hurrah! The electorate can get involved, cheer on the policies they want and spout forth with ranks of amateurs raising their voices.

Twitter feeds signed up to by politicos that were silent for months have suddenly come alive, Facebook statuses are now updated regularly, and we’ve even had the opportunity to read about candidates experiences out canvassing.

Which all bodes well one would think. But we have a dark nagging fear, as we lie awake at night... We fear that a lot of the political aspect of social media here is of interest to us anoraks, while the rest of the country use social media to, well to be social!

The true test will come in terms of turn-out. Did the extra effort on the web really engage the electorate? We hope so, but in the meantime there are a few comments we need to post...anoraks of the world unite: after all, the geeks will inherit the earth.