Friday, 1 February 2013

Eye on the Hill

Shop ‘til you drop – your planning application that is
WE like shopping (well to be more precise, our spouses and partners like it). If it means that our “better-halfs” are in some retail haven, while we watch the football, rugby  – in fact any sport – in peace it has to be a good thing. [Editor’s note: I take it you’re talking about the male members of the team?]

Apart from the agony, as the credit card bill drops through the letter box, we also recognise the benefit it does the economy.

That is why the prospect of a John Lewis store opening in Norn Iron had us quite over-excited. The better halfs would spend days, hours, even weeks travelling to it, browsing in it, leaving us to enjoy the Six Nations, the Barclay’s Premiership and All-Ireland Senior Football Championship in the company of our own legitimate purchases from the off-Sales and pizza delivery.

But no, all hope is gone! The commendable employment practices, the wide range of consumer goods, all gone now that John Lewis has reluctantly shrugged off the legal fees, dropped their planning application that has been running for almost nine years.

While Chambers of Commerce, some small traders, the shopping precincts of Lisburn and Belfast rejoice, one wonders about the impact of the John Lewis decision. What signal does it send to potential investors in this time of economic uncertainty?

Unity – it’s so disunited
ONE has to commend the façade maintained by some unionists, like the Ulster Unionist Party for instance. Unity with the United Kingdom may be the stated position, but disunity is the discord resonating in the media.

By the time you read this, the UUP Star Chamber may very well have delivered its verdict on Basil McCrea,

Should Mr McCrea be exonerated then three Belfast UUP councillors are threatening dark actions. Should Mr McCrea be disciplined then he may well consider his future within the Ulster Unionists.

It’s a lose, lose situation for party leader, Mike Nesbitt, who saw another veteran member and former deputy Chairman, Terry Wright, leave the fold over the closer links with the DUP.

However, one has to wonder who’s ‘fault’ it is that the party has gotten itself into this situation, and how that will disable its already limited influence in Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

Mr Nesbitt’s desire for consistency in his party’s message is admirable, but the ‘fleg’ situation seems to have left him wrong-footed with inconsistency, not only from the protagonists above, but across councils in Northern Ireland.

No matter where the blame is laid, it could be a long journey back to any form of stability and credibility, come the next Assembly election.

Dystopia looms, but business as usual at Stormont
WHILE the threat of a dystopian divided Norn Iron is much paraded by a media obsessed by five-minute riots and random rants from those on the edge of sanity, it is business as usual in Parliament Buildings.

During next week’s Assembly plenary sessions, two commendable pieces of private member’s business will be debated.

One examines the prospect of free school transport for pupils; the other is a well-intentioned call for better internet safety for children

The former is a laudable proposal, worthy of examination by the Education and Skills Authority, if and when it is established.

While we must applaud all attempts to protect children, we remind our readers of our parents’ struggles with video recorders and DVD players. We may think we can administer internet but the existence of alternative websites, anonymisers, and the dark net may drive activity out of the public eye. Instead, the use of the very public evidence bullies may leave should be a weapon that can be used to track them down, protect the bullied and counsel the bullies to help them desist.

As we say, commendable proposals.

But, on the theme of the tinterweb, the Assembly will also debate the current bête noire of social networking sites, no doubt targeting the abusive nature of some pages, calling on somebody, somewhere to do something.

Of course, anyone who uses public forums for a discourse of terror or to make threats should and must be prosecuted, but really Mr and Ms MLA do you think you can control the beast that is the collective social networking environment.

Only by closing Norn Iron’s Internet borders to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter et al will achieve that. Censorship is not an option in a state where we should encourage legal internet activity and avoid totalitarian gazes into the network.

No comments: