Belfast Telegraph

Chancellor George Osborne is a comedian of the highest order if he thinks Stormont talks ultimatum will be plain sailing

By Will Chambre

Widely trailed, widely discussed, the much awaited announcement from George Osborne on devolving corporation tax to Northern Ireland came on Wednesday when the Chancellor of the Exchequer unveiled all in his Autumn Statement.

But, the long-awaited announcement came with a sting in the tail…

In basic terms, he said that Stormont could get their hands on corporation tax raising powers if all the parties agreed to ‘play nice’.

Translated that means Mr Osborne expects the current talks to succeed, with no more fights in the sand pit; no spitting, no back biting, and everyone to agree a way forward.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a comedian of the highest order – a new paradigm of comedic ability!

Surely he must be playing the biggest practical joke in history. After all, the way the talks are going the DUP and Sinn Fein can barely agree on whether they have tea or coffee.

Yes, he said, you can get powers over some fiscal matters if you ‘agree’. As the hip kids with their text speak would say: “OMG, LOL!”

Welfare reform is a roadblock; no we take that back, it’s more like the Iron Curtain. At the minute never the twain shall meet. As for ‘flegs’, parades and the past…well, why start a row when you can start a fight?

The Northern Ireland political parties have an uncanny knack of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory…

But there are chinks of light. And that light is of the sweetest kind – so sweet it is almost sickly. Those rays of light almost taste of fudge...

In the hands of skilled negotiators, our political lords and masters can be compelled to swallow some of the aforementioned fudge. Perhaps they may be able to swallow the sweet, sickly substance to produce some sort of ‘compromise’.

Stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, while the lens of political populism was trained on George Osborne, the Assembly took it upon themselves to pass some forward-thinking, progressive, family-friendly legislation. We’ll bet very few saw that coming!

Yes, in a surprise move the Assembly has passed a Bill that will see equality in maternity/parental leave. And, the same leave will be available to mums and dads if they adopt a child.

What happened there?  Did the MLAs have too much to drink?

If they did, they may enjoy it while they can, as Health Minister, Jim Wells, plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol.

Mr Wells is convinced by the arguments and research, even if the legal precedent – Scotland’s attempt to set a minimum price for alcohol – suggests that the necessary legislation may never see the light of day.

Just like the talks about talks, it could be said to be going nowhere…except if the political parties can swallow the talks fudge. And, if they do, there are still an estimated 2,000 teachers and support staff heading for the dole in coming months and years. Try telling them that the party leaders can’t stomach any fudge.

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