Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

We hope there will be a peaceful conclusion to Ardoyne parade issue but reality is some wish to cause maximum amount of mayhem

The photograph that went global: A rioter is thrown off a police Land Rover by water cannon after trouble flared in the Woodvale area in 2013. Pic David Fitzgerald
The photograph that went global: A rioter is thrown off a police Land Rover by water cannon after trouble flared in the Woodvale area in 2013. Pic David Fitzgerald

According to a report last week, Northern Ireland’s housing market is ‘dysfunctional’. Perhaps it’s not just the housing market?

Take the time to have a glance at the headlines and you could be forgiven for thinking that Northern Ireland is dysfunctional – or at least it appears to be every time summer rolls around.

In the 2014 installment of ‘Norn Iron, the riot years’ we have had a succession of collective hissy fits over one Parades Commission determination as each sides proclaims themselves to be the injured parties. Alongside this come the general appeals for peaceful protests.

The two largest parties have been at pains to tell us all that the economy comes first and foremost in the Programme for Government. At the same time international news crews pencil into their diary each year a few days over July to get some action shots of our police under fire from a hail of missiles and petrol bombs.

Unionist parties have walked out of talks on parades, flags and the past amid First Minister, Peter Robinson, claiming the devolved institutions are under threat and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness stating the obvious to the BBC: “We're in for a fraught couple of weeks...”

Of course we all hope that there will be a dignified and peaceful conclusion to the parading issues around the Ardoyne and the Garvaghy Road, but we all must face the reality that there are those who look at such issues with an eye to causing the maximum amount of mayhem.

However, to focus too much on the disastrous summer’s headlines is to miss out on the fact that for the majority of the time MLAs, Ministers and the public at large get on with getting on.

It may have been the last full week of Assembly business, but it was a week that saw committees getting down to the nitty gritty of scrutinising chunks of sub-ordinate legislation.

The Seeds (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (NI) 2014 may not grab the headlines, but if you are in the business of flowers, garden centre management or even running an allotment then this could affect your day-to-day life.

The subordinate legislative consent motion briefing to a committee by the Employers for Childcare on the Childcare Payments Bill might be something that working parents may wish to hear the outcome of.

There is an understandable tendency for headline writers and the pundits on camera to focus on conflict. It makes good copy for their reports. They're journalists. That's their job after all.

But we would do well to remember that even in a small place like Northern Ireland the machinery of government continues to grind on, no matter what is happening.

Perhaps the journalists would be better turning their critical eye on the transparency of the Assembly. This past week alone seven committee sessions were closed to the public. Is that open, accountable government?

Meanwhile – the MLAs are throwing hats in the air and racing to the car park for their summer recess.

That is except for the members of the committee for employment and learning who seem to have been given detention. On Wednesday they’ve to attend Committee for a departmental briefing on ‘Contracting Steps 2 Success’.

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