Friday, 25 May 2012


WE’RE on the road this weekend as the grandees of Sinn Féin and the party faithful gather in Killarney to discuss…well to discuss what is wrong with the world and what they plan to do to put it right.

As (southern) Ireland thinks about whether to vote yes to a treaty or no to a treaty, as Fianna Fáil gets their knickers in a knot about not being anywhere like an effective opposition, all should seem rosy for Sinn Féin at their Ard Fheis.

But, there is the wee thing about being a partitionist party…what! Says you! Shinners as partitionists? Well sort of, they have to deal with the reality of the border as it is, and get on with things, but it’s the economic policy that is causing the confusion.

With Fianna Fáil floundering, Sinn Féin is perceived to be the effective opposition in the Dáil. Just off Merrion Street SF deputies have the opportunity to slam, lambast and tut loudly about cutbacks. In Northern Ireland/Ulster/the Occupied Six Counties they are one of (the many) parties in “Government” and on occasion have to lay the cold dead hand of cuts and closures on public services.

So, how to deal with this dichotomy…well for a start (and we would not wish to put words into their mouths) they could say that Norn Iron’s economy does not require the drastic slash and burn required, because of the failed banks south of the border. Or they could say that they are statesman-like and deal with the political realities, whether they are in Ballymena, Ballyronan or Brussels.

They could also hope that with barely prayers to stave off despair that the Euro doesn’t go belly up over in Greece. Not because of the perilous state that would leave the south’s economy in, but because the British Government might lose billions resulting in more cuts in Norn Iron.

But while they ponder the problems and debate a way forward the chattering masses in Norn Iron want to know…yes want to know who will be the new Junior Minister in the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

With Martina Anderson heading off to assume MEP duties, who will be the new sidekick and/or partner to Jonathan Bell of the DUP…

In the meantime, we’re packing the sandwiches, revising the briefs our clients have given, pouring cool orange juice into flasks and turning the ignition to head off to Killarney!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Dear John,

I hope you are well, and may I be the first to congratulate you on finding the extra £72m for education and all that you are responsible for. This is especially encouraging given that it was a just a few short months ago that you managed to find an extra £100m+ for education.

While we all note that you have warned us that there are tough times ahead for education, this extra money will be a boost to the poor teachers, over-stretched youth workers, early years staff and classroom assistants who all will be assuredly tugging their forelock in grateful appreciation at receiving your largesse.

That you were able to determine the level of need so quickly, once the money became available, demonstrates your immense grasp of complex problems, such as you have shown with your contribution to discussions on the vexatious issue of post-primary transfer.

May I also say that your efforts to prise open the notoriously tight wallet of Finance Minister Mr Sammy Wilson is worthy of a scene in the sequel to Oceans 13 – Stormont 15 – which Northern Ireland Screen should be commissioning shortly if you find your way to securing some more money.

I would also like to commend your sterling efforts in ‘efficiency savings’. Most efficient! To be able to squeeze such efficiencies when you still have five education and library boards and no education and skills authority in place is truly remarkable; especially given your statement in March on how many schools weren’t really viable and that you haven’t been able to close that many as of yet.

So, in congratulating you on being able to secure this extra £72m, can I ask is there any money to spare? Perhaps now that your pockets seem to be brimming with £50 and £20 pound notes you could see your way to…well you know where I am.

Yours sincerely,
Edwin Poots
Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety

P.S. Do you have some ‘story’ on Sammy that the rest of the Executive doesn’t know yet?
P.P.S. Remember our wee chat? When are we going to see creationism on the curriculum?
P.P.P.S. Can you send some of your finance people my way, as I need to close a few more hospitals and A&E services, but want to make it sound good.