Life

Jake O'Kane: I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore

The fact that not one of them has had the integrity to return public monies they haven't earned means all their snouts are in the same trough. They're all complicit in a scam where we who work have our taxes misappropriated by politicians who don't work

Secretary of State Karen Bradley is 'minded to reduce MLA pay' but needs to confer with MLAs first Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

"I’M MAD as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore." So screamed Howard Beale, the main character in the 1976 hit film Network. Howard’s outburst expresses the frustration and anger a lot of us feel about our local politicians. The tragic reality for us is we can scream all we want but nothing will change, we’re trapped in our own version of political Groundhog Day.

This week the secretary of state informed us she’s "minded to reduce MLA pay", but only after she confers with – wait for it – those very same MLAs. This, 14 months after they stopped working and three months after an independent review recommended a cut in their pay of 27.5 per cent.

Some argue I’m wrong lumping all MLAs in the same boat – sure aren’t some of them decent, well-intentioned people doing their best? Maybe, at one time, but the fact that not one of them has had the integrity to return public monies they haven’t earned means, for me anyway, that all their snouts are in the same trough.

They’re all complicit in a scam where we who work have our taxes misappropriated by politicians who don’t work.

Others argue that they’re doing constituency work. I’m sorry but that isn’t what they were elected to do. Here is the assembly’s own job description for MLAs:

‘Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) are elected by, and represent the people of, Northern Ireland. MLAs pass laws and examine policy on transferred matters like health, education, the environment, social work and housing. They scrutinise the work of Ministers and hold Departments to account.’

I defy any MLA to say they are fulfilling any of those duties. And so, with a distinct possibility of yet another election, I thought I’d compile an honest MLA job description.

Northern Ireland Assembly MLA – aka Best Job in the World

Job title: Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Northern Ireland

Reporting to: Party Leader or God or Army Council.

Salary: £48k basic salary per annum – rising to £50k on April 1 2018 – plus office costs, travel, health cover, generous pension, subsidised heating of home. A holiday home either in Donegal or Portstewart and junkets around the world to attend conferences on peace building and reconciliation.

Hours:

None.

Location:

Sofa in front living room with cup of coffee.

Job role:

To oppose ‘them uns on other side’, even when it is detrimental to ‘your side’ and society at large.

Key duties and responsibilities:

Your key duty is obedience to your party leader or God or Army Council at all times. You will adhere strictly to party doctrine, even though this may mean the nullification of your critical faculties. You will not mix, socialise, fraternise or even speak to ‘them uns on other side’. When a fellow party member expresses views that are bigoted, intolerant, sexist, racist, homophobic or sectarian, you will support them immediately, irrespective of your own beliefs.

Key duties:

1. Keeping ‘them uns on other side’ out of power.

2. Standing behind party leader when they are being interviewed on television. Nodding in approval at everything party leader says.

3. Attending assembly occasionally to avail of the subsidised canteen.

Essential criteria:

1. An ability to do what you’re told and never disagree with party leader.

2. Must be able to wear an ill-fitting suit and tie or respectful dress. (Do not get these mixed up).

3. Have no sense of humour.

4. Exhibit no ability for introspection.

5. Have an ability to hold an opinion in the face of all scientific evidence to the contrary.

6. Never admit you’re wrong in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

7. Show no embarrassment when lecturing others in matters of morals of which you are deficient.

8. Be able to justify your salary, without laughing, by explaining you are doing essential constituency work, already being done by councillors.

9. An ability with languages is expected. A few words of either Irish or Ulster Scots will suffice to garner grants and annoy ‘them uns on other side’. Pigeon English will suffice for Assembly debates.

Desirable criteria:

1. Demonstrate evidence either of having been touched by the Lord or have served a prison sentence, or both. Time spent in prison is of definite benefit.

2. Evidence of being able to stand and stare blankly into the middle distance when asked a difficult question by a journalist.

3. Previous experience of working within your community, especially applying for Government grants is desirable.

Academic qualifications:

Academic qualifications are a distinct liability.

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