Friday, 7 December 2012

Eye on the Hill...

Politicians falling over themselves…

WHILE political leaders have been wrong-footed before, it seems that this week someone tied their laces together. All hues of the spectrum have been tripping over themselves like a Premier League striker trying to win a penalty.

While it is always difficult to imagine scenarios in advance, especially on issues such as flags and symbolism, upon which emotions run deep in this tiny part of planet earth, the ensuing violence and intimidation is depressing.

This lack of political leadership, co-operation and courage is lamentable and in stark contrast to the majority of the long suffering citizens who got up on Friday morning and went to work as normal.

While the folks on the hill have been so intent on falling out, whilst Belfast City Council got its knickers knotted, and east Belfast foments with 'outrage' over the union flag, in general the good people of our wee country got into their cars, boarded buses, took the train and got on with their lives.

While a dangerous game of one-up-manship takes place, death threats issued and social media abuzz with sectarian vitriol, hundreds of ordinary workers from engineering firms and other businesses are facing redundancy and concerned with how to continue to provide for their families.

Trade missions that promised so much will have those same foreign investors thinking twice about Northern Ireland, and wondering if it is all worth it after all?

It makes us question - what is at the nub of it?

Is it the fact that the Alliance Party has gained a foothold in east Belfast prompted a reaction from unionist parties?

Is it the fact that the Alliance Party is flexing its muscles too much?
Is it the fact that Belfast City Council no longer has an overall unionist majority?

Is it the fact that symbols mean so much that they have become sacred cows, never to be touched?

Is it really that a flag flown atop of Belfast City Council 365 days a year, has been taken down on all but a few designated days?

We could look at all these questions and never get the same answer from two people.

We also don’t want to ascribe blame, but we must note the fact that the economy in Northern Ireland does not need scenes of a political party’s constituency offices burnt out. It does not need scenes of police being assaulted on one side of the City Hall while fearful shoppers abandon the continental christmas market because of the disturbances on the other side.

And as we look forward with a certain amount of trepidation to Monday's debates at Stormont, we can only hope that our politicians refocus on the issues of the economy they repeatedly claim to be focused on. We hope things now moves to a period of talk, talk, not war, war.

Budgets in fall?

AUTUMNAL statements from the government are somewhat of a curate's egg, bits are good and bits are bad. The ever influential 'markets' barely reacted to Mr Osbourne's statement and while newspaper headlines variously warned of or acclaimed the impact nothing much else happened on the wider stage.

Even our finance minister, Sammy Wilson was somewhat muted in his response, but then he has bigger fish to fry. While the money pledged to the Executive for capital investment is no doubt welcome, the ongoing consequences of rows over public sector pensions and getting the welfare reform ducks in a row with Westminster's timetable, is perhaps why Wilson was so guarded in his comments… unless you count the chancellor letting the NI electricity generators of the hook when it comes to the carbon cost floor [Editor’s note: ????].

Yes, we understand it, but we have neither the time nor inclination to spend our time writing out an explanation that would ultimately bore you (hey we are genuinely interested in this type of issue, but even we grow a little heavy eyed when the explanation comes around!)

However, the basic issue is that energy bills will not rise by the heading spinning 10-20% had not Mr Wilson won this concession on the carbon cost floor.

Other good news, and one that must have the number crunchers at the Department of Finance and Personnel and the economists at Invest NI frothing over their calculators, is the reduction in corporation tax. Unfortunately the reduction is not exclusively for NI, but across the UK, but still it is a step in the direction the Executive must want.

We believe that on hearing this news the entire Executive went on to Google, checked out where the nearest Starbucks was and ordered some Christmas presents on Amazon. Oh, hold on it seems those companies have a somewhat controversial record in terms of paying their corporation tax into the UK exchequer’s coffers.

Hi Ya Hilary!

BOUT ye Hilary! How ya doin? Big Bill okay? Sorry about the mess, but listen could you do us a wee favour? You're sure? Great! What is it? Yeah, can you please clear off while we have a wee local difficulty to sort out!

No offence madam secretary of state, but having all those media types here when we've a few uncivil, civil disturbances isn't doing anybody any favours.

You see we can normally have these spats cleared up in a day or so, without it being covered globally.  We just had the media over for the traditional summer rioting pageants to offer them some little local colour stories.

But coming so close to Christmas, when the lights have already been switched on, it’s not such a good move.

Think about it! Would it not have been better to come over when you knew for certain that there would have been no riots, civil disturbances, ugly rows and general huffiness? It would have been a much smarter move.

That way you could still have trumpeted about how you and yer hubbie played such a big role in delivering peace to Norn Iron and announced you were running for President....oh did we let that secret out! Damn!