Friday, 29 March 2013

Eye on the Hill

Taxing times

IT'S all Alex Salmond's fault - him and those crazy Cypriot bankers! If it wasn't for them Norn Iron would have control over its own Corporation Tax rates with the prospect of multi-national businesses throwing their cash into 'our wee country'.

Instead, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness trooped disconsolately away from Downing Street, heads bowed, saying they were disappointed that Davey Boy Cameron had thrown in the towel and said, "away ye go lads!".

There is a rational reason for not giving the folks on the Hill the power to strike our own corporation tax rate; the  small matter of Scotland voting on whether to reduce the United Kingdom to three component parts (what the UK will then be called is another matter altogether!).

In the run up to next September’s vote, the PM won’t want Norn Iron demands for devolving corporation tax to muddy the waters. Giving the Scots the same powers as us would prove a lot more costly to the bean counters in Whitehall.

Winter's deathly grip

ONE would be a hard-hearted not to have total sympathy for those stranded by the recent snow storms leaving so many individuals cut off and hundreds of sheep and livestock dead or dying. 

Northern Ireland's fast response MLAs have covered themselves in nothing short of ignominy. Thursday night of last week the snow started and by Friday evening it was clear that this was more than the usual spring flurries so often encountered here.

As it was then the weekend and ministers and MLAs alike were ready for their Easter recess, our politicians were not at hand, other than to build snowmen and chuckle at all the cute kids sledding down the hill at Stormont.

Where was the emergency Executive meeting? Where was the urgent response to this agri-crisis? Equivocation began on Tuesday, to be quickly replaced by waffle, photo-opportunities and general hand washing. Decisions were in short supply, as talk of compensation was batted back and forth across the air waves.

By Tuesday night/Wednesday morning it was agreed that the RAF  Chinooks were needed and by Thursday Irish Air Corp helicopters them.

When did the emergency meeting of the Committee for Agriculture take place? Thursday. Mind you, this was a meeting of MLAs that could not compel action, but could only scrutinise such action and generate a lot of hot air.

To summarise - a week after the snow began MLAs at last sat down to talk.

Surely in this 21st Century communications era those charged with ministerial responsibility could have connected through those amazing devices called telephones and had some sort of Executive meeting, even if their laneways had more than a dusting of snow flakes.

Surely by Saturday, when the plight of farmers and stranded communities became clear someone would have displayed leadership and acted with some sense of urgency.

There was none forthcoming, with one prominent member of our Assembly blaming "the weather".

We live in a temperate part of the world, where hurricanes and virtually unknown, ice-storms never take place and temperatures are generally like Goldilocks porridge - not too warm and not too cold. We experience no volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are so mild none but the most sensitive detectors even note they happen at all.

But as all forecasters outside the loony fringe of climate-change deniers acknowledge, the weather cycles are more and more likely to be subject to change and alteration, requiring better response from all agencies to floods etc.

And it is no use blaming the Met Office. Weather is a dynamic, chaotic system that requires an understanding of probability for anything beyond a few days reliable predictions. But should our elected representative try to blame the Met Office, they could do well to remember that last week's snow was well forecast.

Was it beyond the bounds of likelihood for one member of the Executive or an official to pick up the phone and ask whether they should make some contingency for the weather? Obviously it was.

Happy Easter/Ishtar

AS we mark Easter, or for those who worship ancient Babylonian Gods, Ishtar, we would like to wish all our readers and clients the greetings of the season and with the clock's about to change hope that spring will see re-birth for the political process.

While we may despair at the ongoing violence of minute terror gangs on both sides of the divide, or the horrors of the ongoing strife in Syria, we would ask you to remember the work of evolutionary psychologist Stephen Pinker, who notes that there is no safer time in recorded history to be alive.

Enjoy your eggs and see you next week!