Friday, 5 July 2013

Eye on the Hill

Should I stay or should I go

In the immortal words of the late Joe Strummer, songwriter and lyricist of punk band The Clash: “If I Stay there Will be trouble; if I go it will be double”.

Thus minister for social development, Nelson McCausland, is faced with calls for him to step down as minister with responsibility for the debacle that is the mess mixed up with the chaos that is the current state of the Housing Executive.

Mr McCausland is as trenchant as ever in media interviews and statements, defending his actions and those of an alleged phone call from his office, which may or may not have asked a local councillor to stay quiet for the sake of party unity.

These allegations place the voluble Mr McCaulsand in the position of staying put in office or stepping aside, while an Assembly committee  inquiry is on-going.

Either way, the minister has performed well and provided an effective deflector shield for his party in this crisis, taking on all comers with head lowered, and his metaphorical fists ready. Whether other members of the DUP, could, or should, face the level of vitriol being directed at him is debatable at best.

And, to paraphrase Mr Strummer, if Mr McCausland goes it will be double trouble for the DUP…

Desperate dole measures

WE know that there are major issues surrounding unemployment, so news that someone actually broke into a dole office in west Belfast shows the real state of affairs. That people are so desperate to job hunt that they’ll break in to get a jump on the queue for vacancies.

In contrast, we see the noble actions of Norn Iron’s Members of Parliament in refusing to take a pay rise…

The same MPs may be saying no to the salary hike, but are taking home £67,060 from next April. It may seem a lot – well it seems a lot to us – but ironically this still leaves MPs amongst the poorest paid in Europe, and the wider world.

All this makes entertaining lines for the more vocal radio hosts, but does not address a situation that sees local elected representatives in a virtually untouchable position. This is understandable at Westminster, but does not clarify the position in the Assembly.

Not so much the salaries, but the untouchable position many MLAs enjoy. While there is some shuffling and movement at the edges, with NI21, UKIP, TUV, the Green Party et al, the main rump remains, a rump that like all the MLAs are currently enjoying their holidays.

To be fair, many MLAs will still be holding constituency surgeries, but the bothersome journey up to Stormont can now be abandoned.

However, this week’s sudden developments surrounding contentious parading may have wrong-footed the north Belfast MLAs.

Residents groups have been nice, they’ve asked for talks, and the Orange Order has agreed to talks.

Unprecedented, and confusing!
Actual people talking to actual people about actual issues – world peace may be next on the agenda.

Whether the talks work or not, the very step of a resident’s group in Ardoyne – scene of rioting for the past four years on the 12 July – and local Orange lodges involved in formal talks is comparable to a UN peace-keeping force arriving in a war torn country to find the combatants sitting enjoying a cuppa together.

The only real risk to everyone in the Ardoyne, Twaddell Avenue, Crumlin Road and surrounding areas is that politicians may become involved.

Booze and Banbridge…

WHY is that some people in Norn Iron can have such a censorious attitude to people enjoying themselves?

While there has been campaign to encourage locals and tourists to come to our ‘wee country’  and enjoy the hospitality (translates as “have a feed of food and a bucket of booze”), certain local councillors are determined to keep the lid on people smiling.

In a move with no sense of irony at all, a Banbridge councillor called for a booze-free beer festival. Given that recent medical research shows that beer may help blood pressure over a short period but non-alcoholic beer does not, we wonder whether a booze free beer festival may cause problems for the good folks of Banbridge…

But it touches upon the disconnect in Norn Iron politics and the direction given to arm’s  length bodies, such as those in charge of tourism.