Friday, 7 September 2012

Eye on the Hill

Oh dearie dearie me
WELL here we are at the end of the summer, a summer of rain, sodden streets, wet fields and what do you know but we have used all the excess water to fill up the water cannons and soak the streets and gathered masses of unruly yobs some more. The PSNI must have decided that all the water had to be used some way.
Or was it the petrol bombs they were trying to extinguish...
What a wonderful sight, rioting returning to Belfast's streets for the traditional three-day period. It's just like Ardoyne in July: rioters ready, on you marks and you have 72 hours to create chaos, and then your time is up.

But who fired the starting pistol? Was it a bunch of idiots in band uniforms? Was it the marchers who decided to follow on? Was it the groups determined to take offence? Was it the politicians of all hues who think that once they let their jaws spring open yobs would take a hint even when one was not explicitly given?
Ahh! There's the rub. The political leaders. There now tends to be an inclination to make sure that leadership gets thrown to the side until the proverbial is flying from the fan, splattering the reputation of Norn Iron.
If we were major investors would we take the risk? If we were entrepreneurs would we even consider that 99% of the population were going about their business but avoiding the flash point? No, we'd be off like rabbits at the sound of the farmer's gun to the safety of an area where our base would not be portrayed as some pseudo-war zone.
Will the Norn Iron Executive have the will to get on the streets and work their over-inflated behinds rather than their over-inflated egos?
The Executive, for all its failings has done so much right, stumbling through their mini-crises and even managing to pass the odd bit of legislation. Many will not have agreed with what they have done, but at least they have 'done' something.

With another major parade just around the corner, if you'll excuse the pun, it is now necessary for the Norn Iron Executive to get out from behind the behind doors meetings and the staged press conferences and get working with the aggrieved, the disillusioned and the disenchanted; and not just think that you can throw money and platitudes at the problem.

Leadership and hard work can, and will, resolve the issues. Posturing will not. We look forward to the soft sound of sleeves being rolled up and the quiet, calm work that can solve problems, not make them worse.

That’s right, rights are all up the left

MORE than 14 years since first conceived in the heady, hallucinogenic airs that wafted around the Good Friday Agreement, the Norn Iron Bill of Rights is no nearer to resting at ease on the statute books.
And the Norn Iron Human Rights Commission -  the body given the job to bring about said Bill of Rights knows where to place the blame – those dreaded and dastardly ‘g’ men; the be-suited gents [Editor’s note: ‘And ladies!’] of government.

Four years ago the Human Rights Commission presented its recommendations for a Bill of Rights to the government at Westminster, where it has not exactly been top of the government’s reading pile.
After the various machinations since 1998, the chances of the Bill of Rights receiving an enthusiastic response have been not exactly great. Whether it be unionist intransigence, nationalist obduracy , or just plain awkwardness, the Bill has languished in the ‘to do’ pile for quite some time, but not as long as the 10 years it took to get recommendations to government.

And here is where we think the Human Rights Commission missed a trick: they had no specific constituency to appeal to. Not children, not pensioner, not victims – just sort of everyone.
Had they any sense they would have said this week: “The Bill of Rights will establish in law the right to parade, the right to object to parades and the right to up to, but not including, three full days of rioting.”
It would have been gained the necessary political support quicker than a caller to The Nolan Show can express indignation about something or another that they think they are indignant about.

Welcome Theresa!

AS Cabinet re-shuffles go, it was not the most inspiring or drastic, but we were all delighted to see the former Transport Minister and Euro-Sceptic Theresa Villiers toddle across the North Channel to become Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Ms Villiers may see this as only a slight promotion, but she may also see it as a chance to shine at a time when there is a need for leadership in Northern Ireland.
Or, as she looked at TV news bulletins of riots on the streets she may just have said…well as responsible columnists we would never repeat such language…

Ms Villiers is a former barrister and was an MEP before becoming MP for Chipping Barnet. Quite how she’ll be welcomed by Executive parties remains to be seen. Owen Paterson, for all his good intentions and congeniality did have, at times, a tendency to open his mouth to change feet. Thought by many to be a ‘good’ Secretary of State, outstanding matters had begun to pile up on his desk.

Like Corporation Tax varying powers.

Ms Villiers’ position on Corporation Tax reductions may or may not be sympathetic, but as with Mr Paterson her hands will be tied by the Treasury. Whether her legal brain can be applied to this Gordian Knot remains to be seen, but as a former Transport Minister perhaps she can advise us all on how to avoid the latest roadwork’s.
By her side will be ex-British army man Mike Penning as a Minister in the Norn Iron Office. Mr Penning served in the Grenadier Guards, including time in Northern Ireland. Whether patrolling in a Land Rover or time in barracks will give him any real insight remains to be seen.

But as a former political journalist he may be able to correct local hacks grammar.
While both are no doubt capable MPs, and one hopes also capable ministers, we do wonder why anyone would want to be at the NIO? And how many said ‘no’ before Ms Villiers agreed.
Of course, it is the chance to shine? Owen Paterson may be grateful to be promoted to DEFRA as secretary of State but what other incentive is there.

One suspects that there is an unwritten code for all Secretary of States for Norn Iron.  It probably reads: “Keep those lunatics from running over to London whingeing”.