Ending antagonism the ironic aim of an Executive at war
Published 05/06/2014 | 11:00
So you think there is no good news coming out of Stormont? The corridors of power-sharing were certainly filled with foreboding this week with staffers admitting: "This place could still fall apart."
The Assembly atmosphere soured in the aftermath of the worst Executive meeting for years with ministers mouthing off at each other.
"The historians won't believe it when the minutes are finally released," one senior figure told On The Hill.
The fear is the row which started under 'any other business' could mean little or no business being completed for a while.
And the prevailing gloom was underlined as the five main party leaders emerged from their first meeting in more than two months on Monday. However, the ever-optimistic SDLP chief Alasdair McDonnell told On The Hill: "It's not all negative."
The swelling in-tray of issues marked deadlocked – welfare reform, the Education and Skills Authority – come against the backdrop of the first anniversary of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness's Together: Building A United Community blueprint.
Following the prolonged Union flag protests, last year's tense marching season, the fall-out from the collapsed Haass talks and the controversy over Islam of late, the community appears less united than ever.
But the programme is making some progress – albeit slowly.
On the all-important peace walls, a list of pilot proposals and plans has been identified with anticipated delivery over the next 12-18 months. OFMDFM told On The Hill: "In the last four years funding for good relations work has been increased by 18% to over £10m a year. This supports valuable work tackling sectarianism."
Five things we expect next week
1. Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are to be asked how they are tackling prejudice towards the Muslim community.
2. The Assembly Commission, which is responsible for the day-to-day running of Stormont, is to spell out “how it is making Parliament Buildings more inclusive for all communities”.
3. The motion which keeps the business of government ticking over — the “supply resolution main estimates” — goes through on Monday.
4. The Budget Bill also begins its passage — with Treasury fines over the Executive’s failure to implement welfare reform set to kick in.
5. David Ford is due to outline the progress made on the proposed new build programme for Magilligan jail.
Five things we learnt this week
1. Tourism Minister Arlene Foster predicted that the total number of visitors who saw the Giro d’Italia will exceed the 140,000 target.
2. The average domestic rates bill in Northern Ireland is £825, Finance Minister Simon Hamilton revealed.
3. Justice Minister David Ford plans new legislation to deal with enforcement and fine collections for people who do not pay their television licences.
4. Scrabo Tower near Newtownards is closed to the public because water has caused slippery, unsafe conditions
5. 57 people were killed on the roads last year, a rise on the previous year when fatalities totalled 48.
Star MLA: Adrian McQuillan DUP, East Londonderry
The DUP man let the ‘hair’ sit when a minister told the bald truth this week. The folically-challenged MLA took Mark H Durkan to task for overturning a planning application decision on a hairdressing salon in Kilrea. Mr Durkan’s reply was quite, er, clipped: “I did not think (you) would have much of an interest in hairdressers,” he said. And no one laughed louder than Mr McQuillan.