Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Making those Giant decisions

Lindy McDowell, Belfast Telegraph

Finn McCool - what about a follow-up contract? Of course, it was all so much easier back when Finn McCool was involved in the initial construction work on the Giant's Causeway site.



No talk back then of consultants' reports, planning permission, the issue of public versus private funding or indeed questions about which political party Mr McCool subscribed to.

Back then the big man (not to be confused with the Big Man) just got on with the job in hand.

And before you could say hexagonal rock formation, he'd created one of the true wonders of the natural world, the indisputable gem in Northern Ireland's tourism crown.

And as it turns out, a 21st century row about how we can best capitalise on the thing.

What it has come down to is a debate about whether public or private finance should be used to create a centre that will cater for what we all hope with be the tourist hordes about to descend upon this place.

The argument in favour of giving the job to a private developer is that the job will be done quickly and efficiently and, should it all go pear-shaped, it won't be the long suffering taxpayer picking up the tab for failure.

The argument in favour of public finance is that this is the Giant's Causeway we're talking about.

It is our premier tourist draw. And given that visitor predictions are now extremely optimistic, it's hard to see how it could be anything other than a nice little earner. A major earner even.

More to the point, since it is the top tourist attraction in the country, surely it is vital that any visitor centre should be under public control. This is not just about turning a profit. It's about safeguarding our heritage.

The problem, however, is that these are the local authorities in Northern Ireland we're talking about. By the time they've stopped discussing what to do and actually get down to business, the Causeway could be sand on the floor of the sea.

This is a recurring pattern in Northern Ireland. Our seeming inability to make swift, common-sense decisions on just about anything. And our truly spectacular talent for turning proposals to provide updated facilities into intractable and generally extremely expensive rows.

Remember the grand plan to build a national stadium? The one that got bogged down in a Maze of argument with half the country ending up at each other's throats? The one that everybody is now sick to the back teeth of? Remember the Titanic? And how almost a century after it became a legend we're still dithering over how to cash in on it.

At least with the Giant's Causeway, unlike the stadium, we're all agreed of the need for a centre - and on where it should be sited.

The outstanding questions are these - who's building it and who's paying for it?

Here's a suggestion ?

Instead of a stadium which nobody now seems to want, couldn't the money from central government be channelled instead down to the north coast?

It could even include that much debated Conflict Resolution Centre that was said to be key to the Maze plan.

No doubt a certain Mr McCool would be available to give talks on why he decided to desist from lobbing chunks of granite at his Scottish neighbour.

Only fair, after all, that the boy who did such a great job of building the Causeway should be given a follow-up contract.

Building bridges.

Who's coming to the dinner table...

Will the Oxo family move with the times...?

The Oxo television ad campaign is reported to be on the way back with a new 'family' reflecting 21st century values.

The old ad was standard meat and gravy stuff with mum, dad and their growing brood tucking in with gusto.

What sort of family might the new campaign feature?

One perhaps where the post-menopausal mum is too nauseous for dinner.

The oldest son won't be at the table either - he's absent because he's on a reality TV show. The oldest daughter isn't eating since she's aiming for size zero.

And the school age kid hasn't been able to make it back for dinner because he's in detention after teachers confiscated his handgun. But at least dad with his good old stiff upper lip will be sitting down as usual for his usual gravy and mash.

Stiff upper lip? That'll be on account of the Botox injections.

A Brit of help needed

Britney Spears is back in the news after a less than polished performance at a TV awards bash. Showing a bit of a paunch in her sparkly bikini, she fluffed lines and gyrated awkwardly on stage.

This is providing her critics with endless gossip and tabloids with acres of analysis. I've said this before but - unlike some celebs who go through a bit of a rough patch - Britney appears to be a very real cause for concern. She isn't merely wilful and daft. She's ill.

You just wonder if among her impressive back-up team there isn't someone who can steer her towards the help she so obviously needs.

Watching her self-destruct isn't funny and it isn't entertainment. It is in the true sense of the word, pathetic.

Surely we are all better than this?

Staying mum in big daddy debate

First the Americans gave the world the 'mother of all bombs'. This week the Russians upped the stakes with the 'father of all bombs'.

An infantile name-calling war, in other words, over weapons of mass destruction.

Strange Mr Putin in particular seems to be in the grip of some sort of macho posturing phase.

Maybe this is what we get for sneering at those pics of him stripped to the waist like the Village People cowboy.

In stark contrast is the story of a mysterious 'air raid' on Syria this week by the Israelis. Both countries are keeping quiet about what precisely happened. But the Syrians are known to be angry about it.

Among security forces in Israel, by contrast, there's reported to be a " mood of satisfaction" at present. One theory is that the pilots have taken out a store containing either missiles bound for Hezbollah in the Lebanon or nuclear technology bound for North Korea. Either way the Israelis aren't saying.

In the age of bombast about bombs - all that 'Our daddy's bigger than your daddy' stuff - they're wisely staying mum.

Food for thought, Charles

Prince Charles invited school kids to his Highgrove farm this week. Apparently HRH is concerned that children these days don't know where food comes from.

Chas will have put them straight.

It comes, of course, from the silver platter.

Delivered by one's butler.

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