Friday, 31 August 2012

Eye on the Hill

Bye Ken, nice to have had your support
WITHDRAWING the whip, it could be something out of Fifty Shades of Grey, but in political terms it is more than a slap.

So when the party whip was withdrawn from Lord Maginnis, as a result of his comments about homosexuality, he subsequently resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party. This has triggered further speculation from commentators about the acceleration of the party’s decline.

The situation does raise one pertinent question; what the UUP is all about? From the urban centres and the commenting corridors of Parliament Buildings, Lord Maginnis’s comments, that homosexuality was “unnatural and deviant”, made him seem like a doddering Diplodocus [That’s a dinosaur for the non-literate]. From the rural perspective, where much of much the party faithful reside, it is maybe not so.

Given the war of words that erupted over Health Minister Edwin Poots ban on gay men donating blood, perhaps Lord Maginnis is speaking out on behalf of the church-going, God-fearing folks? If so this presents UUP leader Mike Nesbitt with a problem. If he wants to contrast his vision of an open, liberal challenger to DUP dogma, there may be many more of Lord Maginnis’s ilk ready to call out their safety word and head for the exit.

Can you contain yourself?
C’MON we know that the Olympics and Paralympics have been a welcome distraction, but let’s face it you can hardly contain yourself now that the return of the Assembly is just over a week away.

Next week there are a few committee meetings to warm up the MLAs before the first Plenary Session of the autumn term.

Seasoned observers will be sitting down musing on the future programme of pointless debates and wittering on about legislation.

We, of course, will be taking it seriously – pens and typing fingers primed, lobbying and campaigning heads screwed on tight, and monitoring every deep breath of an MLA.

However, be aware that like school children arriving back after the summer holidays the MLAs will be faced with a significant shock at the sudden adjustment.

And they’ll also be faced with the reappearance of the corporate begging bowl. First up will be NI Water.  NI Water made a profit of £133m, but they want money to better prepare against flooding. Now, why would they want more money when they made a profit? The answer is simple and strange. All their profit goes back to Department of Regional Development.

Norn Iron’s public sector exists in such a strange world that if you do a good job you must hand back your profits. Then you can go cap in hand to ask for some money back. All this profit may even put the debate on NI Water privatisation on hold. After all, why kill the golden goose?

What this highlights is that streamlining Government may become a task that could confuse even the great mind of Professor Stephen Hawking. Splitting the Department of Employment and Learning, if achieved, will be akin to splitting the atom. While reforming local government will be like finding life on Mars.

So, with all this fun time ahead we can’t but be eager to see what way it all pans out.

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