Friday, 27 January 2012

Perma-tan Pete and the judges...

THE secretary of state who had the best tan throughout his tenure, Peter Hain, has upset our esteemed local judiciary.

In his newly published memoirs, he said some rather disparaging things about the judge involved in the case concerned with the appointment of the first victim’s commissioner. We haven’t sought the advice of lawyers, but we reckon best not to repeat Mr Hain’s comments. The lord chief justice Sir Declan Morgan seems annoyed enough as it is!

Rather we contrast the reaction of politicians to Mr Hain’s remarks; all rather muted, but then again he didn’t plunge the knife in too deep. And, there are worse things said on Wikileaks.

The contrast is the lord chief justice getting all upset about Mr Hain describing one of his colleagues as “off his rocker”...without taking the advice of expensive lawyers we’ll stop that train of satire before it hits legal buffers.

All we’d like to say on this matter is that given our legal aid costs an arm and a leg and the latest report from the Criminal Justice Inspectorate says that our justice system is slow to the point of a crawl; taking twice as long for cases in Norn Iron compared to other parts of the UK with youth courts take even longer.

So, instead of challenging remarks from perma-tan Pete Hain perhaps our judges could kick some butt to help speed up the judicial process here. Otherwise the real and present threat is that justice minister David Ford, the man Mr Hain described as the ‘”least flexible” of the political leaders, will come down and have a word. And really Sir Declan, we wouldn’t wish that on anyone. (Our lawyers have now stepped in, refused to correct the grammar and told us, uninvited, that we must, heretofore and forthwith “please shut up!”).

Let’s all be friends!

AS far as one party systems go, the idea of one, single unionist party is an old one: dating back to the early years of the creation of this ‘wee country’ of Norn Iron. But back in the day it must have seemed a remote possibility to have the UUP making cow eyes at the upstart DUP.

Whatever the rights, wrongs or maybes the DUP are now in the proverbial box seat and able to sit back and await the amorous advances of what appears to be a trickle of UUP MLA suitors.

And there is no doubting that David McNarry is weighing up the options of moving his stock into the DUP.

Added in to the mix is the reported easy relationship between the UUP regional development minister Danny Kennedy and his DUP colleagues on the Executive.

Of course the leadership of the UUP must be getting rightly miffed over the whole thing. It detracts from trying to rebuild the crumbling edifice that remains after the last election, and there appears to be all sorts of splits and factions: one lot looking at the Alliance Party, another lot looking at the DUP, while a rump appears to be just that, a rump.

Peter Robinson’s position of Mr Reasonable on some issues will of course help sow further seeds among those within the UUP who are unhappy with their party leadership’s tone.

However, we have one tiny, wee word of caution - actually two.

First: have a look at the electoral figures from last time out and think whether you are in with a chance of selection on the list and how many of the oft-talked about quotas are up for grabs. Would the sitting DUP MLAs and potential candidates gift you a slot on the ballot paper.

But most importantly, UUP MLAs must consider this: whether it is worse to sit in a UUP old folk’s meeting (a.k.a constituency branch meeting) or the wide-eyed stares at a DUP Constituency meeting?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Fleadh bid ends

MAYBE we’re stupid (and it has been suggested and rejected before this day!) but it seems a wee bit weird that the bid by Derry to host the 2013 national Fleadh has been turned down on the basis of the threat posed by dissident Republicans.

We have no insight into the mindset of the so-called dissidents (you can always ring ‘Spook HQ’ [MI5] at Hollywood, if you want to find out). However, these utterly idiotic, ignoramuses with their idealised world of stupidity are not going to target traditional Irish singers, dancers, performers.

To do so would be to make sure that every bolthole, every hole in the hedge across the island of Ireland and further afield would be turned out by a population that may have previously grumbled about them.

Excepted, the so-called dissidents’ tactics normally involve risking innocent lives by blowing up tourist offices and other buildings that may bring jobs and wealth to a city with one of the worst unemployment rates in the UK.

For them planting a bomb under a policeman’s car is their great grand gesture, slaughtering without compunction or compassion to grieving families.

In these cowards minds, easy targets so far have not included the members of trad band Dervish.

Which makes one wonder why the Fealdh’s Ulster Council managed to say ‘no’… Was it a political statement as 2013 is the year when Derry holds the title of UK City of Culture? Is that whole UK thing rankling in the ranks.

As Norn Iron works towards a normal society east-west and north-south, cultural and economic links can be normalised while the so-called dust settles on our past until we decide what future we can face together.

One hopes that the Fleadh will overturn this decision and bring the economic benefits and rich culture to the maiden city; and that the politicians can earn their wages by moving forward without the tit for tat rivalries of the past, showing up the dissidents for what they are - idiots.

Down to business

THERE is an inclination to criticise the good members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, as they compete for air time on talk shows and other festivals of slagging each other off.

It is, therefore, rare that we get the opportunity to focus on the real business that the 108 worthies get down to.

This week the Assembly will be debating matters as weighty as pupil’s poverty, the protection of Strangford Lough’s environment and economy, while the first minister and deputy first minister will be interrogated by members on issues ranging from victims, child poverty, and foreign direct investment.

With all this hard work and devotion to weighty matters one has to wonder how these esteemed members can find the time to bicker about issues that most of us could not care two wits about.

Which leads one to ponder over who sets the agenda for such bickering about the past? If the MLAs are so determined to do real work, while having a pop at each other in public across the airwaves then it hardly sets an example of leadership.

In the coming months and years there is much to be celebrated and commemorated. No doubt the broadcasters will be seeking the drama of division as we look back on the history of the signing of the Ulster Covenant, the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising.

Wouldn’t it be a nice change for our collected MLAs to sit down and welcome these historical anniversaries rather dragging events from 100 years ago into contemporary contretemps that will entrench divisions rather than celebrate the diverse history of these islands?

In the meantime I can’t wait until the debate on the A24 Ballynahinch by-pass.