Friday, 15 February 2013

Eye on the Hill

Siberia ‘meat’ locker shocker
DIANE Dodds, the DUP MEP has opened up a new front in the “I can’t believe it’s not beef” scandal.

With worries soaring over horse meat being labelled as beef, Mrs Dodds said she feared a “mammoth problem”. Now that stopped us in our tracks!

We knew Russian scientists had been experimenting in sourcing the DNA of the ancient woolly creature, but are their experiments at such a scale that they are breeding woolly mammoths for export to western Europe?

Or worse, have they been digging up ancient corpses from the Siberian Permafrost? Given the last evidence of a woolly mammoth is from around 10,000 years ago then that is surely meat well past its sell-by date.

But then we remembered that the ‘Young Earth’ creationists amongst the DUP believe the earth was created in October, 4000BC so it’s not that much past its sell-by date…

Disintegration not integration
WITH Education Minister, John O’Dowd, plugging away on his ‘shared future’ vision of education, Ulster Unionist Party leader, Mike Nesbitt, must find those two words haunting him.

Is it a shared future with his DUP new best buddy Peter Robinson? Or is it a shared future without any MLAs?

Jumping ship this week are John McCallister and Basil McCrea.

The announcement that the DUP and UUP were agreed on fielding an Unionist unity candidate in next month’s Mid-Ulster by-election appears to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

But it is not that the departures were not anticipated.

And they call into question the whole Nesbitt project, with the rancour of these splits now lingering like a bad smell about the party.

To look at it from the other side, a unionist unity candidate was the only expedient option for Mr Nesbitt. Had he ran a UUP candidate, in all likelihood they would have been squeezed and the embarrassment of coming trailing behind the pack would have done as much to credibility as leader as any other option he is facing.

But perhaps what will really stung Mr Nesbitt in John McCallister’s resignation letter was the accusation of being Peter Robinson’s “junior partner”.

The resignations also lead to an intriguing situation, which see the three Independent Unionists (John and Basil with David McClarty) making up an increasingly large group with the TUV and UKIP. And perhaps that is why Basil is dropping less than subtle hints about a new party.

All of which further fragments the non-DUP unionist vote. Whether this can be sustained is, of course, another matter.

And under D’Hondt, at what point does the UUP lose a seat at the Executive table.

Sneaking under the radar
WHILE we have all become pre-occupied by the various disputes and inconveniences around party shenanigans and horse meat scandals there are developments happening in the Assembly that could have wide ramifications.

Not that we’re saying these developments are being deliberately ‘flown under the radar’…
Next Tuesday, the Assembly and Executive Review Committee is discussing, behind closed doors the following: “Review of D'Hondt, Community Designation and Provisions for Opposition”.

Big stuff as any change in D’Hondt will massively effect the position of various parties holding ministerial portfolios.

Also, with the fault lines ever clearer in the Ulster Unionist ranks, will the newly independents be able to form an opposition?

While a plenary debate on health inequalities may seem innocuous enough, the reference in the motion to “restructuring of Government departments” should raise a red flag, given that it is coming close to the point when any re-structuring needs to begin, if it is to be achieved before the next election…and the running of D’Hondt again.

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