Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Twelve Days of Christmas solutions for Northern Ireland

A peaceful Christmas: Too much to wish for this festive season?
A peaceful Christmas: Too much to wish for this festive season?

As the Haass Talks move inexorably towards whatever conclusion they finally reach, I’ve decided to give a festive solution that the men and women round the proverbial table may want to take on board.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

Twelve paraders parading. As symbolism is so important to the Haass talks participants and various interested parties, why not have a symbolic parade past the Ardoyne shops; with 12 carefully chosen members of the loyal orders walking the couple of hundred yards in full regalia. Only this time without any cameras or undue fuss.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

Eleven protestors protesting. Just as symbolism must apply to those wishing to parade, protestors should be able to make a symbolic ‘stand’, or rather they should be able to lie down in the path of 12 symbolic parading members of the Loyal Order for a set period of five minutes before retreating to the edge of the road to shout out a series of agreed insults. Again out of camera shot.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

Ten days of leave. After a summer and autumn of policing parades and a winter balancing patrols and clearing up after bomb and gun attacks, PSNI officers should be granted a complete 10-day break over the Christmas period to shed their armour and maybe spend some time writing up 300-odd days of notes.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

Nine new investments. Yes, after the disappointing, if only marginal, increase in unemployment welcome news over the Christmas period should be a series of nine major investments: preferably sustainable, long-term, highly paid jobs. After all well paid, happy employees are less likely to be inclined to cause a rumpus.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

Eight new quangos. We know that the Northern Ireland Executive may want to cut public sector costs, but eight new quangos would allow plenty of time to thrash out problems in theory, but more importantly would allow MLAs and the media to vent their spleen without causing any real harm.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

Seven paramilitary organisations disbanded. Yes, stop the bombing, shooting, murder attempts, stop the rioting, the gangsterism, the drug dealing, and the organised rioting; just stop it all. Republican or loyalist, you are not going to achieve anything other than creating misery. Petty people with petty empires. Disband now and get a real job because you are never going to ‘win’.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

Six radio phone-ins in a row without sectarian rows. Given the propensity for radio phone ins to descend into name calling with politicians retreating into bunkers and callers arguing with the hosts, the producers on all shows should have a moratorium twice a year when there will be a six-week break from sectarianism: have a phone-in about cuddly pets instead.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

Five flags! We have the tricolour, the ‘ulster flag’ and the union flag, so why not two others. Given the row over the Hass talks proposal at having a new Northern Ireland flag, perhaps it might be better to have two new flags for the region. Each flag should be ambiguously designed so that both ‘sides’ can claim each flag as their own and demand it be flown on a number of designated days, such as the anniversary of the Northern Ireland football team beating Spain or Down being the first ‘northern’ county to win the Sam Maguire cup since ‘partition’.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

Four victims’ bodies. With such a hangover from the past – shattered bodies, shattered minds and shattered families – never mind the problems faced with agreeing a truth commission or anything else, there needs to be four victims’ organisations to provide mental health support, counselling, therapy and dedicated physical rehabilitation. Services to be provided free and without favour for a generation.

On the Third Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

Three crisis talks. They keep political correspondents in business in work and they have the benefit of bringing big spending American tourists to Northern Ireland on the pretext of helping ‘us’ work through our ‘issues’.

On the Second Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

Two ‘sectarianism-free’ elections. With just five short months until the European and ‘shadow’ district council elections, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Hass talks signalled the start of the election campaigns. While no political party admits to being sectarian, they are perceived to be so, rightly or wrongly. Thus, it is imperative that in preparations for the May elections, all the parties should focus on the ‘bread and butter issues’.

On the First Day of Christmas my true friends gave to Northern Ireland…

A peaceful, prosperous future. Simple as that. The best present for us all would be a 2014 when rows and posturing can be set aside with real political business continuing to focus on growing our economy, creating jobs, ensuring that are young get a world class education, improving our infrastructure grow, keeping our hospitals and social care systems running and help this little region, its neighbours and fellow travellers on these islands look forward with confidence to the rest of the 21st century.

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