Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

End of term blues for our politicians at Stormont?

It's that time of the year when the balmy showers of summer blot out the sunshine, but joy is in the air. Never mind the schoolchildren, next week most MLAs will be capering down the steps of Parliament Buildings as the summer recess beckons.

And, as usual their smiles and jolly japes mask the thought of trying to eke stories over what in most democracies would be a fallow period for political news.

Not so in dear ol’ Norn Iron. Here we can, as always, look forward to alcohol fuelled fights at interfaces, surprise announcements and lengthy queues at Housing Executive offices and MLAs’ offices from those seeking properties to escape the disorder and intimidation.

With the dispute over what is on Garvaghy Road and what is not on Garvaghy Road and the ongoing 12-month long dispute in Ardoyne, the US Army’s Second World War abbreviation SNAFU could be used. Its stands for Situation Normal, All....work the rest out for yourself, we’re not in the habit of using profanity.

But, lest you think that it’s all doom and gloom, there’s always the magic tricks that Ministers manage to pull off. Like the trick that has a Minister going “can you see any money in the empty box?”

Such was the case with Education Minister John O’Dowd who was faced by angered educationalists, teachers and principals when it was announced there was no money for teacher’s voluntary redundancy packages, which had been previously agreed.

But Mr O’Dowd warned that he cannot continue to wave his magic ministerial wand, saying: “...the Department of Education’s budget is still under considerable pressure”.

That pressure is mounting on budgets as officials grapple with the estimate £5m a month cut in Norn Iron’s money, as directed by the coalition government who aren’t happy about the Assembly not approving their welfare policies, which include the bedroom tax.

Answering a question from David Simpson of the DUP, Prime Minister David Cameron tried to soften the bitter pill by renewing his claim that welfare reform was about getting people back to work, not cutting budgets. That sort of doesn’t make sense when cutting the Norn Iron budget.

But still, who says politics, especially our politics, has to make sense. We’ve had the Queen shaking hands – again – with Martin McGuinness, and looking at the Game of Thrones Iron Throne, but not sitting on it (she has her own throne after all), the Royal pensioners visiting a jail; we’ve had lukewarm enthusiasm for talks on parades, flags and the past; and, even a new deal on farm payments.

Whatever next?

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