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My new year message to NI's posturing MLAs: you may have given up on local democracy, but we certainly haven't

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster
Michelle O’Neill
Chef Gordon Ramsay and his wife Tana

By Lindy McDowell

Welcome 2019. This being the first week of the year, we're still in that happy, idealistic phase where we feel positive and enthusiastic about a brand new 12 months in which, hopefully, we can realise our dreams, reach for the stars and achieve unimaginable success.

Or at least lose a pound or two and get off the fags...

Before us lies the rest of January. Dry January with its grim, dark mornings, copious Diet Coke and NiQuitin patches.

For a month that is launched globally with enough fireworks to power several nuclear facilities, January is never actually the cheeriest time of the year.

And as we stand on the threshold, we now have the additional uplift of all those "annual messages" from people more important than you or me.

Her Majesty the Queen, His Holiness the Pope, these I can accept.

Apart from anything else, they traditionally concentrate on peace and love and wouldn't it be better if we all tried a little harder to get along?

But the whole plethora of politicians and others vying for headlines with their pompous messages to the masses?

Mrs May, Jezza, Donald Trump, Arlene, Kim Jong-un, Danny Dyer...

In her address to the nation, Theresa May talked about the country "turning a corner". A corner that may well take us over a cliff-edge.

Jeremy Corbyn, true to form, had a rip at the Tories and the "complete mess" they've made of Brexit. Not to be compared with the "complete mess" he's made of opposing Brexit.

Generally, there were no surprises in anything anyone had to say. Arlene Foster had a pop at Sinn Fein. Michelle O'Neill had a go at the DUP. Our deep-thinking Secretary of State Karen Bradley produced yet another exercise in stating the obvious.

"There are challenges ahead in 2019 - restoring devolved government at Stormont, and ensuring we secure the best deal for everyone as we exit the EU."

Breaking news indeed, Karen.

Trump, needless to say, tweeted his message of self-congratulation and bile in shouty UPPER CASE.

Kim, seated in a Chesterfield armchair in front of pics of his da and his granda, talked of the potential of North Korea exploring "a new path".

At last, a forward-looking affirmative message? Sadly the "new path" Kim was referencing would be taken, he hinted, in the event that Washington "continues to break its promises and misjudges our patience by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushes ahead with sanctions and pressure".

In other words the new path armchair warrior Kim seems to be alluding to is the future trajectory of his intercontinental ballistic missiles.

To sum up, then, 2019 begins yet again with the now traditional round of all-round nastiness, threats, posturing and blame.

But I reserve my greatest contempt in all this for our local representatives who continue to spout at us when, honestly, they have absolutely no right to our respect. Any of them.

For two years now we have been left without government in Northern Ireland. Two years. Two whole years of disdain for the electorate. Two years of taking the money and not giving a damn.

Every time I think of it the more angry I get. And the more bewildered.

Do they have no idea, any of them, how this is playing to the ordinary man and woman in the street?

Because if they did our MLAs would surely do the decent thing and resign. They'd do something, anything to bring this shameful charade to an end.

Instead they just seem to have given up.

Why should we even listen to politicians who no longer speak for us? Why should we treat them as relevant when they have already proven their own irrelevance?

Why should we tolerate their arrogant assumption that we will continue to tolerate them effectively disenfranchising us?

Yes, there are many things we could all do with giving up in the new year.

Local democracy isn't one of them.

Many people are rightly concerned about the nastiness on social media. I'm not going to argue with that.

But I also think we've maybe had a bit much of the saccharine sweetness too.

I'm thinking of all those "heartwarming" videos of which we've had a slew recently, and which have inevitably gone viral, showcasing the poster's generosity, kindness and caring spirit.

What's not to... well... like?

An example - the American man who filmed himself telling his granny and granda that he was paying off all their festive debt.

Awww... sweet.

Sort of.

Because his own payback was obviously in the posting.

You just wonder why your man felt the need to share his enormous generosity with the world.

It's a bit like those other attention seekers who have to make a big production of their marriage proposals and then post the vid of the same online to allow the rest of us to witness how very romantic and clever they are.

I'm sure that elderly American couple were thrilled that their bills had been paid by their grandson. But wouldn't it have been more respectful of their dignity to have done it without broadcasting his generosity to the world?

It's all a bit selfie serving.

There used to be a saying about how no good deed goes unpunished. Online today, you get the distinct feeling no good deed goes unpublished.

When it comes to social media some people just don't seem to have any self-awareness. Whatsoever.

And, surprisingly, of all people, this week's poster boy for the concept that some things really should be kept private is the usually quite mouthy Gordon Ramsay.

The chef and his wife are currently expecting their fifth child.

Asked online recently what the child's gender is and when it's due Mr Supposedly Big Mouth replied bluntly: "l have a big mouth and all but seriously?!?" Well put, sir.

Forget TriBeCa. How about Try harder?

Controversy continues over the proposed name for the major redevelopment of the area adjacent to the bottom of Royal Avenue running from Rosemary Street to Donegall Street. Developers want to call it TriBeCa. I know. Cringe. It's not very Belfast. You wonder just how much money was spent on coming up with that. Okay, who could blame them if it was about wanting to avoid the usual wrangling over names that stems from our local tri-balism. But, come on - TriBeCa? Try harder.

No longer in the dark about far side of Moon

In intergalactic news this week, the Chinese landed on the dark side of the Moon. Scientists are rightly excited.

But it has to be said, the Moon’s dark side looks not a whole lot different from its bright side. A bit like the enlarged

surface of a poppadom. No little green folk or other signs of life to be seen. The probe took along a small plant which,

it’s hoped, could be the first flower to grow on the Moon. The first lunar landscaping.

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