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'If we could only get Russell Brand to attend a plenary session of the Stormont Assembly'


Sometimes when we take a look back through the top stories, news items and political life in Norn Iron it is as if Alice’s Wonderland has been transplanted to here, and we live in a surreal, parallel dimension of the real lives the rest of the world experience.

Where else could one of the most controversial comedians and actors, Russell Brand turn up at Camp Twaddell to talk with protesters and leave without making a song and dance or issuing a statement?

Within 36 hours PSNI were describing talks on interface disputes as “constructive, open and frank”. Like us we are not sure who frank is, but apparently he is involved in these talks.

While it is easy to see how perceptions of Northern Ireland can be built, both within and without, by interface problems, protesters and paramilitaries, it is more difficult to recall that life goes on apace.

The working population makes its merry way to factories, shops and offices and retailers are stocking their shelves with treats for under the Christmas tree. (We are joining the curmudgeonly majority in demanding this stops until a widely approved date of December 1.)

And, while the workers wander eagerly to their places of employment, we must note that our political overlords are also knuckling down to business – not that you would guess this by listening to local news reports.

Take next week - our MLAs will be holding a dozen committee meetings. At these meetings there are sure to be a few spats, but the scrutiny roles of committees continues unabated.

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For example, the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development will be considering the impact of invasive species (no not Russell Brand!) of horse mussels in Strangford Lough, and the Committee for Employment and Learning will be hearing from Minister Stephen Farry about Youth Training and Apprenticeships.

The Committee for the Environment will be considering responses from stakeholders on the Local Government Bill and the Committee for Education will be hearing a briefing on community access to schools.

We’re not wishing to list out all the action at the Assembly (we do that, for our sins...) but rather to emphasise the positive work members of all the parties sitting in Parliament Buildings undertake.

There are controversial and potentially divisive matters being discussed, of course, which will draw the headlines, but in writing this we thought it only right to strike a balance and remind us all of the range of matters relevant to civic, public and business life being discussed at the Assembly.

As we knuckle down to review the work of the Assembly against what is reported on the news, it may well be the case that too often and too quickly we hear the cry “off with their heads”. As we mentioned in the introduction Norn Iron is a surreal place to live and we commend our political representatives for making a go of it.

Now, if we could only get Russell Brand to attend a plenary session of the Assembly that would be like looking down the rabbit hole…