Belfast Telegraph

Ryder Cup jolly has landed our First Ministers right in the rough

By Alex Kane

The Executive parties are incapable of agreeing on anything.

Peter Robinson describes the structures of government as "not fit for purpose". Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew suggests that the whole process is "untenable".

Financial penalties are being levelled on a daily basis because the DUP and Sinn Fein cannot sign off on a deal for welfare.

At an emergency meeting called to discuss the nature and scale of the problem, they couldn't discuss it because they couldn't agree to table the discussion paper.

The Treasury is threatening to step in. Cheques won't be written. Cuts and job losses are sure to follow. Polling and anecdotal evidence indicates an ever growing disconnect between the public and the political establishment.

Crisis! What crisis?

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Ulster politics: a Lilliputian-style theme park where Swift's Big-Endians and Little-Endians squabble over trifles while chaos piles up around them. And what did Robinson and McGuinness do in response to the farce? As soon as the meeting ended – with nothing agreed – they dashed off to the airport and headed off to Scotland and the Ryder Cup. Is that what Robinson meant by a "St Andrews-style setting"?

They may warn the rest of us about the need to tighten our belts, but they don't need to bother about such things. First it was the Chuckle Brothers, now it's the Buckle-Your-Own-Belt Brothers.

The most nauseating aspect of all of this is that it's just for show: all for the optics; all for their Press teams (separate teams, of course) to get the 'money shot' of two men being seen to be doing their best for Northern Ireland.

They will pretend to the rest of the world that all is well back home; their slapped-on smiles a sign that the crisis is no more than the mischievous agenda of a "relentlessly negative media".

Yes, there may be things to talk to Alex Salmond about. There may be issues to discuss about hosting the Open in Northern Ireland. But those discussions could just as easily (if not luxuriously) be done by conference/video call or by sending senior staff.

It wasn't necessary for Robinson and McGuinness to be in Scotland yesterday. If they can't sort out the things at home that need to be sorted out, they certainly shouldn't be galloping off to discuss issues of less importance.

My concern is not primarily about the trip to Scotland, or anywhere else for that matter. That goes with the territory of high-level politics. My concern is the perception that surrounds it: the perception that these two men try to convey that everything is 'normal' at home; the perception that they get on well; the perception that Salmond and Opens take priority; the perception that the rest of us are not that important; the perception that our problems can be left for another day.

Northern Ireland deserves better. Northern Ireland needs better. They should Watch the golf on their TVs, email Salmond, lock themselves in a room in Hillsborough or Stormont Castle and don't come out unless it's with a joint resolution or a joint resignation.

Alex Kane is a writer/commentator

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