Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Happy Nollaig Shona Duit Christmas and a Merry Hannakah New Year to all

IN these culturally diverse times, when we gather around a Pagan altar to anoint the birth of the Messiah, Prophet, etc etc around the time of the Winter Solstice we want to wish all our faithful readers season’s greetings – but we’re sort of stuck in the correct manner to do so.

A few short years ago we were pretty clear – a simple Happy Christmas would suffice as the fumes of the office Christmas Party wafted over hapless storekeeps as we toiled to gather little Timmy’s two mandarins and chocolate coins for his Christmas stocking.

Now, do we offer the greeting in Irish? Do we offer the greeting in English? We’re not even sure what the Ulster-Scot version is, and we’re fearful lest we offend someone who is not a ‘Christian’.

Just look at the mess councillors and aldermen in Belfast City Hall got themselves into over one Irish language sign!

Eur not sore, are eu?

HERE on the outer fringes of a country on the western fringes of a European political organisation, drifting as part of an island and island group that floats on the European tectonic plate ever further from north America by a few centimetres each year, at least some politicians of note want a say in Europe.

Yes, former SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie wanted to know why David Cameron had added Norn Iron to the list of those he could ignore when exercising his Bulldog Spirit at the same time as throwing his veto amongst Johnny Foreigner.

Norn Iron comes next on his speed dial list after Nick Clegg, and I’m sure the speaker of the Assembly could have convened a 4am meeting of the MLAs quick enough to get a decision back to him by July 2012...

And wouldn’t you know it, the DUP were no slouches at rowing in with an opinion. Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds layed down a “David, We Love You” Commons motion, just in time to make Tory grandees think that they could dump those wishy washy Lib Dems in the run up to any general election and mate with the DUPs to ram through some damn tough legislation in case there is another hung parliament in 2015.

Of course, more sensible heads in Norn Iron would have been thinking straighter. As we gazed across the Foyle Peace Bridge, we wondered how many other grant schemes we could squeeze out of Strasburg before the Euro went the way of the Greek Potters Economic Wheel of Misfortune.

At least Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill, got the prawn quotas sorted out in time for Margaret and Nigel to enjoy their prawn cocktails on Christmas Day! Just hope they didn’t get them from Iceland...

Monday, 19 December 2011

Tax ‘em til they squeak

AS the UK and Ireland moves closer to becoming Tesco’s largest outlet, Sammy Wilson, Miser for Finance and Personnel, has decided that the superstores should pay more than their share to help Norn Iron’s floundering economy.

Yeah, that’s right Sammy has launched a 15% rates hike on those nasty old investors to help some of the small artisans and petty bourgeoisie small shopkeepers.

Go, Sammy! All that effort and fraught meetings with lobby groups and industry representative groups and you stuck to your guns, well pretty much to your guns anyway.

Tescos are in a huff, Sainsbury’s in a sulk, B&Q are hiding in the corner playing menacingly with a power tool and Ikea are in a Swedish strop and threatening to run away.

And there is perhaps one good thing to come from this rates rise. While we may bemoan that bankers got off scot free (again), at least there is the whisper of a chance that we’ll never get lost around Ikea’s labyrinthine flat pack maze.

‘Tis the season to be jolly

AH, the twinkling of the fairy lights reflected in the eyes of poor Timmy as we looks around the hospital ward, and the gaiety of the nurses as they swish almost soundlessly from bed to bed with good cheer, as doctors chortle with their young charges...

Well that would have been nice but that Edwin ‘Scrooge’ Poots, our Health Minister, is to close the ward and slam a big “For Sale to the Private Sector” around the hospital gates as they clang shut for the last time.

And he’ going to charge for prescriptions too! Merry Christmas to all!

But, wait, is that really Scrooge McPoots? Under that grey suit, does there lurk the vision and demeanour of a super hero, ready to leap into the fray, the saviour of our ailing and obese NHS in Norn Iron? Tough Poots on the outside, but Edwin’s warm and gushy to make sure Little Timmy has his leg amputated in time for Christmas so he can make slum employers feel guilty in time for next Yuletide?

Truth be told, no-one’s even sure how it will shake out as the Compton Review of health and social care takes sail over the potential closure of half the wards in hospitals, the reduction of A&E departments and the ‘Fat Tax’.

Now that was the genius move! Before any lobby group or community organisation could whip up a head of steam to turn any given MLA into a ‘Not In My Back Yard’ closure hospital NIMBY, the media moved in 24 hours from radio shows about hospital wards to the ethics of the ‘Fat Tax’.

Chubby people all claimed it was their right to munch merrily away, while slim folks pontificated and smokers heaved a last drag of delight that they weren’t the targets any more.

Thus Mr Poots can glance a steely eye around the chamber and the next time an MLA speaks about how his Hicksville hospital in the boonies has to stay open, he can measure the girth of the waistband of said MLA and consider uttering the immortal words: “So, now we know who ate all the pies!”