Siren calls for yet more cash handouts drown out alarm bells
And so, the Stormont gravy train is back on the rails, amidst much mutual back-slapping and self-congratulatory hype from all the usual suspects on the Hill.
Why am I so overcome with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu, accompanied by a profound depression? Why indeed.
Mostly all the same faces, a motley crew of MLAs that were elected over three years ago, many of whom, through their own senses of self-preservation, have just robbed the electorate of the opportunity of a fresh mandate so that we might throw half of them on the scrap heap where they so clearly belong. One fifth of them there now have not even been elected, having been undemocratically and co-opted into their £50k jobs by their parties.
And, of course, among them we now find no less than two richly-rewarded ministers, neither of whom even so much as faced an interview, including a Minister for the Economy who did her level best to ruin what economy we still cling to by her reckless support for Brexit.
The siren calls for yet more cash handouts from London and Dublin once again drown out the alarm bells, and do not bode well for a better future here. Hundreds of millions a year are relentlessly pumped into this place and still our mostly incompetent and largely unqualified legislature contrives to make a humongous mess of governing six small counties.
It is not entirely the executive’s and MLAs’ fault – they are of course aided and abetted by largely unqualified Spads, supported by an obsequious NI civil service afraid to confront the cash-fat juggernaut.
I honestly hope that I am somehow proved wrong and pray that this time, surely, they don’t mess up again.
I catch the occasional glimmer of hope when I see some of the bright young talent that some of the parties are trying to nurture, but they are swimming against a tide of unsurpassed ineptitude and sectarian division that continues to blight our body politic.
With the RHI findings due out soon, coupled with the out-workings of Brexit here, I fear my senses of déjà vu and deep depression may well be justified after all.
Omagh, Co Tyrone
Self-preservation is the real reason for restoration of Stormont
Sinn Féin was under tremendous pressure to accept the draft agreement proposed by the British and Free State governments, even though that agreement fell well short of Sinn Fein’s stated red lines.
Although Sinn Féin insisted that any agreement would include an Irish language act – and the party is trying to sell the agreement as a package that includes this – there is no standalone Irish Language Act. Sinn Féin is also quite happy to accept Arlene Foster as First Minister.
The current health crisis, and particularly the disparity in pay, was created and maintained by health ministers from the DUP and Sinn Féin and it was this crisis that forced a reluctant Sinn Féin to renew Stormont because Julian Smith indicated that its resolution was dependent on the resurrection of the assembly. The alternative was that the parties would face an election where both the DUP and Sinn Féin would suffer at the polls. And so the real reason for the restoration of Stormont was not the interests of the electorate but of the self-preservation of the parties, who after three years of their mandate spent outside Stormont now wish to spend the last two years of it preserving their electoral mandate. In other words, the pressure that Sinn Féin felt to accept the draft agreement was not in the interests of the electorate but the party’s own self-interest.
Sinn Féin’s recent election results have seen the party losing ground and a six-county election with poor results would have increased pressure on the party leadership, which to date has been a disaster.
Working-class communities facing yet another year of devastation
Last week the Stormont Executive reconvened under the bright lights of the applauding media and excessive back patting following the launch of much anticipated, ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document/agreement.
In that 62-page document there was not one mention of a suicide crisis or mental health emergency. The only thing potentially worthwhile was the launch of a mental health strategy to be released in December 2020. Unfortunately many in our crippled society do not have another 12 months.
Approximately five pages of said document were dedicated to Ulster Scots ‘language’ and centenary events, yet mental health didn’t receive a page, nor half a page but five bullet points – yes five bullet points spread throughout the document.
Who is representing the interests of our communities at these negotiations?
How many more thousands of deaths is it going to take before they admit we now have a full blown crisis and epidemic on our hands?
We are not even past January and already you cannot count the amount of suicides in the north the fingers of your hands. 2020 is destined to be the worst year on record for suicides, another year of devastation for working-class communities in Ireland.
DAN Ó MURCHÚ
IRSP, Belfast BT12
Black hole in finance
Conor Murphy states that the executive requires £3 billion to survive. The government offer is £2 billion. The public are entitled to ask what precisely is going on. Facts and figures are being withheld resulting in the explanations neither adding up or making sense. There is an urgent need for Mr Murphy to expand on exactly what are the immediate financial prospects.
The blunt reality is that the five-party coalition were bounced into the ‘New Decade New Approach’ without securing a bounty reward and had their pockets picked.
In 2008 when I challenged Nigel Dodds over irregular accounting the Department of Finance denied there was a ‘Black Hole’ in the budget but acknowledged there was concern over unforeseen burdens in the public purse. In 2012 Basil McCrea MLA repeated the ‘Black Hole’ accusation citing a mighty £15bn cavity.
It would seem that no-one is capable of removing the ‘Black Hole’ syndrome from the executive balance sheet.
Unless corrected by Conor Murphy the new executive risks public animosity and resentment. People cannot be faulted for seeking confirmation that there is the money to deliver good governance and we are not stuck in an insolvent debt ridden poor relations economy.
Strangford, Co Down