Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

A celestial collision course and a look at the week ahead at Stormont

This week we learned that the long held theory that the moon was created when a planet slammed into earth, the resulting debris coalescing into our natural satellite has now been largely proven by scientists.

The best scientific and historical minds in the land have, however, been unable to find a resolution to flags, parades and the past – what physicists have described as the single unified theory remains out of reach.

Residents and resolute Orangemen have been disputing the few hundred yards passed Ardoyne since days of yore, without even so much as a theory as to how to resolve the issue without one side being convinced that the other side has the upper hand.

And yeah, it came to pass that the Parades Commission determined that the loyal brethren will not be allowed to march passed Ardoyne. And so begins the summer ‘fun’. Politicians have already re-arranged holidays to ensure they can be ‘outraged’ and declare the situation a ‘shame and disgrace’.

We sincerely hope that in the weeks and months ahead they come up with at least an original sound bite at some stage...

Meanwhile, life goes on with health and education the focus of our MLAs who occupy yon great big white building we know as Parliament Buildings.

It would be nice, once and a while, to record that the debates in the Assembly chamber were harmonious.

However, such harmonies were sadly, once more, overtaken by the atonal screeches of people dug deep in their political trenches.

The debate on the area planning process in education should have been an exchange whereby members could discuss in a constructive manner the way that schools could be managed and arranged to best suit the education of generations of children to come. But there was barely a whiff of consensus in the chamber with neither conceding any ground.

And, while patients languish on trolleys it was announced that there will be – another – investigation into the state of the Royal Victoria Hospital.

At the same time, the Assembly chamber once more echoed with animosity as Transforming Your Care - the vision for a ‘new’ paradigm shift in health and social care – was the subject for more discord.

With headlines hogged by policing, the past, protests and pugilistic debates, it is always well to remember that the men and women of the Assembly are actually working away in committees and corridors on behalf of constituents and crafting pieces of legislation.

Thus, don’t believe the hype...

Peak behind the curtain of the headlines and find out what really is going on in what passes for politics in Northern Ireland.

And, in case you are interested, the deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness is backing the Orangemen this summer...yes, despite drawing England in his office world cup sweepstake, he hopes the Netherlands will emerge victorious in Brazil. A victory parade of Dutch men in Orange through the streets of Derry will follow should Holland win.

An eye on the week ahead

£8billion. For a moment sit and think of almost £8bn in £5 notes. Quite a pile of cash.

Now, the Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton has resisted the urge to go to a payday lender, but will instead propose in the Assembly that a sum not exceeding £9bn be made available – by the Treasury - to keep Northern Ireland running.

With that legislative instrument it enables Mr Hamilton to bring the Budget Bill to the chamber, where we can expect rancour and wit as the thorny topic of welfare reform will dominate cross-bench exchanges.

The ‘debate’ on the Budget Bill will continue from Monday into Tuesday’s plenary session...

Meanwhile the committees in the Assembly shall be knuckling down for their last few meetings before the summer recess, and tying up as many loose ends as possible.

The committee for education will be hearing about safeguarding in the new curriculum and being briefed on the contentious computer based assessment of children.

At the regional development committee there will be five evidence sessions as part of the committee’s inquiry into the benefits of cycling to the economy. No doubt the members wish to be thorough, but perhaps they can just sum it all up with, cycling keeps you fit, generates tourism income and doesn’t pollute the atmosphere...job done, we’ll send them an invoice for the two minutes we spent coming up with those.

In a timely fashion the committee for the office of first minister and deputy first minister will receive a briefing from officials on the community relations ‘Good Relations Indicators’.

The enterprise, trade and investment committee will ascend the heady heights of Invest NI’s towering edifice in Belfast’s Bedford Street to ask some questions about their work.

Rounding off the week ahead, the committee for the environment will be filling the Long Gallery at Stormont with a stakeholder event as part of its inquiry into wind power.

As always this is but a flavour of a packed week of Assembly activity, but should you want more details, thorough analyses or learn about how Chambré Public Affairs can help your organisation’s clout in the NI political sphere, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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