Belfast Telegraph

Why, in an often-frustrating world of people being replaced by technology, the idea of robots at Stormont isn't so far-fetched

Would robots make a better job of running Stormont than the current crop of MLAs? The question arises following a new report which suggests that by the year 2030, one in six state jobs could be replaced by technology.

Some would say that there are already a fair few drones up on the hill...

And even if robots didn't make a better job of local administration, it's hard to believe that they would be any worse at running the show than the crowd up there now.

Nobody is going as far as suggesting R2-D2 and C-3P0 in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister.

But as a means of whittling down our 108 MLAs, automation could be an option.

After all, it's happened in just about every other workplace. From the supermarket checkout to the telephone helpline which requires you to speak to a machine that, amongst its many other failings, doesn't recognise our local pronunciation of the word "eight".

In the private sector, the advance of automation is all about maximising profits. Sometimes with the public sector, though, the impression given is that funds are seen as limitless.

The RHI debacle being a case in point.

But as ongoing cuts in public services show, that's really not the case. When the bill for RHI kicks in, will there be anything at all left in the coffers?

In terms of saving us a bob or two then, on MLA and indeed Spad salaries, a part-automated Assembly could do the business.

Would it work, though?

I don't know about you, but, in general, I hate machines that have been drafted in to replace human workers.

The automated shop checkout that obsesses about unexpected items in the bagging area and then requires you to hang about for an assistant to key in a code every two pings - that's supposedly progress?

I prefer people.

Some technology is great, of course. The bank ATM - where would we be without that? And I like the idea of cars that drive themselves. Especially cars that park themselves. But there's a limit to technological ability to respond to the needs and the often quite specific requests of us, humans.

Needless to say, in terms of the "state jobs" which, it is envisaged, will be replaced by Metal Mickey, it's those far down the pecking order which are most likely for the chop.

True, our very sizeable MLA community is due to be pruned back, too, circa 2021, to around 85 Assembly members.

In the meantime, though, we continue to be very well represented in terms of quantity - if not quality.

A few androids in the mix might not be a bad idea. Machines, as anyone who has ever tried to argue with a computerised voice will know, are irritatingly logical.

But right now up at Stormont, a bit of logic would not be a bad thing. Something that would challenge the continuing making free with public money - on all sides - and the endless, senseless sops and roundabout bungs to paramilitary organisations.

The Starship Stormont, which has been boldly going where no overspending Executive has gone before (for some time), now appears to have lost the run of itself entirely.

In the eyes of the man and woman in the street, who are constantly lectured about the need for cutbacks, the squandering of public money is nothing short of shameful.

RHI may be a dizzying new peak, but it's not the first time that our local elected leaders have come across as the political equivalent of the Rich Kids of Instagram. Throwing money around them with seemingly little idea - and certainly little regard - for people who have to work damned hard for a living.

The relentless inter-party squabbling over trivialities whilst brazenly shoring each other up over real scandal, the lack of imaginative thinking or action, the turgid pace of ever getting anything done, the insults and grandstanding and, above all, the countless, senseless, endless crises...

And we, the electorate, are supposed to respect this?

As the metal man might say, it does not compute.

Not a very happy New Year for diva Mariah

Mariah Carey had a bit of a diva meltdown during her appearance at the New York Times Square bash to see in the New Year.

Apparently she couldn't hear her backing track, tried to get the audience to sing along, danced about a wee bit before finally walking offstage.

Not great.

But you have to have some sympathy for her.

"I want a holiday, too. Can't I just have one?" she's reported to have lamented as she left.

Poor love.

Doubtless the pay cheque will make up for that gruelling night's work.

Queen, even at 90, is always at our service

The Queen, dear love her, missed Sunday service at the weekend.

This is the second Sunday in a row that she's been holed up in Sandringham Palace with a bad cold. On Sunday it was bucketing down so no wonder she, and presumably her doctor, thought it best that she stayed indoors.

She is 90 years of age. You wouldn't let your own elderly relative out in such bad weather with a heavy cold.

The surprising thing isn't that the nonagenarian Queen has missed church a couple of times - it's that she hardly ever does.

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