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Richard Haass can take inspiration from Driver and Vehicle Agency jobs row


We're sorry that we are returning to this story (actually we’re not that sorry) but MLAs of almost every shade of orange and green are uniting next week in another attempt to save jobs at the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Coleraine.

You may recall that those evil tyrants/thoughtless mandarins/imperial British rulers/uncaring ministers [please delete as you see fit] are planning to relocate the services provided in Coleraine to Swansea, with consequent job losses.

This coming week MLAs will debate a motion - tabled by Messers Dallat, Ó’hOisín, Swann, Dickson, Robinson and McClarty - calling on the Westminster Government and our own Executive to save the Coleraine jobs and invest in new technology.

This is perhaps a model that will inspire Richard Haass. Threaten the wholesale relocation of public sector jobs to outside Northern Ireland and all our political parties will panic, and join together in debating meaningless motions.

That, however, may be a pipe dream. Drape a flag over the dispute, organise a ‘traditional’ march and a ‘justified’ protest and the cross-party efforts will collapse.

Good luck Mr Haass and good luck to all fighting to keep jobs in Norn Iron. You’ll need all the luck you can get.


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Atin’ time is here for kiddies


WHEN it comes to food we here in Norn Iron like our grub. The ulster fry, the battered burger, cheese and onion crisps, wee buns and kebabs are all regarded as staples for many a person – washed down with tonic wine manufactured by monks...

Which is why it is such a good idea to feed the kiddies at our schools some decent grub instead of a chip buttie!

When it comes to atin’ (translation for non-Belfast speakers of ‘atin’ – the act of putting food in one’s mouth, sometimes called eating) we have loads of bad habits.

Such was the concern in the Assembly that we even heard a debate this week on extension of free school meals for those who would otherwise not receive them after leaving primary school.

Minister of Education, John O’Dowd, was quick to issue a press statement announcing that another 15,000 post-primary pupils will receive a free school meal entitlement.

That the Liberal Democrats announced that every four to seven year old in England will receive free school grub was purely coincidental. But therein lies the rub.

For when this food bonanza was announced by the Lib Dems it also became clear that some of the cash for kiddies atin’ proper would come to Norn Iron.

What you may not know is that Stormont does not have to spend it on school grub.

In fact the Norn Iron Executive can spend it whatever way it wants. So, school dinner money could go to tarmacing roads; it could go to fishermen or farmers, but it is not guaranteed to go to the children’s stomachs.

Such is the price of devolution, but if it does not go to school dinners for every four to seven-year-old, we do have to wonder is this a little like a playground bully stealing the lunch money from the wee kid. After all the children don’t have the votes...