Friday, 15 March 2013

Eye on the Hill

Maze of transformation
CONFLICTS leave an aftermath, whether it is of aggrieved victims, groups who refuse to accept the ‘war’ is over, or landmarks to the conflict, there is always a legacy.

And, in our nasty little conflict with no clear ‘winner’ it is those landmarks that have long been in contention, whether it is a disused army barracks, or a former police station they have aroused all sorts of weird feelings.

None more
 so than the Maze/Long Kesh Prison site. Here were the infamous ‘H’ blocks; the site of a mass prison break, hunger strikes and the incarceration of prisoners from both republican and loyalist groups.

For years the future of the site has been negotiated over, debated over and held false promise.

First it was to be an international sports stadium… but that fell by the wayside. Then it was to be the site of a conflict resolution centre…but that fell at the first hurdle on the nearby racecourse.

But with a sense of bold foresight the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society decided to upsticks from its King’s Hall venue 
in Belfast and move its showgrounds to the Maze.

After all it is a big site for animals…

Now the DUP has taken a corporate decision to let the conflict resolution centre go ahead, as an international centre for addressing how to get over all that bickering and fighting over pieces of land and methods of government.

Sinn Féin have magnanimously said any such centre would be about all involved in the Maze during the prison’s former life…prisoners, guards, soldiers and police.

So that’s all right then – we can have the landmark architect appointed and get on with it.
We have no comment to add, other than to say we are just glad somebody has finally made a decision…

April Fool’s Day…
YOU’D have to be a fool to turn down a pay rise – wouldn’t you?

Well that’s exactly what some members of our esteemed and respected Assembly are going to do, according to a poll in today’s (Friday) Belfast Telegraph.

The unappreciative members of the SDLP and UUP MLA are to turn down pay rises that will see the hard-working, resolute and determined members of the Assembly receive just rewards of £48,000 per year, committee chairs and Junior Ministers to receive a total of £60,000 per year, ministers to receive £86,000 per year and First Minister and Deputy First Minister to receive £120,000

It would surely take a fool to turn down the extra wonga…

Except for the fact that they will lose some money as a result of cuts in expenditure they are allowed to claim for.

Various MLAs of differing hue and cry were quick to rush forward and say that the extra cash would go to office staff salaries to make up for this cut. And, the bean counters also said that this would result in a net saving of over £3.16m.

All well and good, except that some MLAs pay less than £5,000 in staff costs – it’s on the Assembly website
, if you don’t believe us.

And then there are
some MLAs saying that they may have had to make staff redundant or cut services, if they don’t take the pay rise, given the cut in their office allowances.

The UKIP MLA, David McNarry,
argued that MLAs are ‘hard-working’ and that there was a need to attract “cleverer people than me…”.

As it is the first pay rise in 10 years, maybe they deserve a few extra quid, but it really is a downright silly decision. To put it in plain language, the money MLAs get to pay low wage support staff is to be reduced, while the MLAs will get a pay hike, which some will have to re-direct to make sure those support staff can stay in a job or not see their pay cut.

And the pay rise is being introduced on April 1st…no more fitting day than that can be imagined.

Theology aside…
THE DUP have had long ideological differences with the Vatican and its Head of State, the Pope.

However, there may have been a few who raised a glass of non-alcoholic beverage to their lips when Pope Francis was announced.

After all this promises to be no liberal reformer papcy…Frankie is clear that same sex marriage is bad, and abortion is very bad.

Strange bedfellows can be found in religion, as in politics.

In other election news
, the new President of China Xi Jinping was confirmed, as well as new premier Li Keqiang. Out of a poll of 3,000 legislators Mr Li only three voted against his premiership, with six abstentions. Messers Robinson and McGuinnes can only dream of such voting, but are hurriedly on the phone from Brazil to arrange their next visit to China.

What you say? The leaders of Norn Iron are in Brazil? Try to keep up there! It’s a trade mission.
Brazil, is a member of the BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China. While developed world languishes in the ‘bankster’ fuelled recession, the BRIC nations are where the economic action really is. It only makes sense for the First Minister and deputy First Minister to go on tour there. Really, it does. Sadly as the Vatican is not one of the BRIC nations, Pope Francis will have to come here, rather than Peter and Martin going to meet him.

Heated debate
APPARENTLY there was a heated debate in the Assembly this week.

Given the stormy passions aroused by this debate we are going to say nothing about it other than to say it went according to form.

Next week another sham fight is planned in the Assembly will be staged about something or another while unreported and unacknowledged some MLAs and civil servants are getting on with running the country.

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