Belfast Telegraph

Why Stormont, like Ryanair, is grounded because there is no one at the controls ... and we don't even get a proper apology

By Lindy McDowell

Ryanair and Stormont. Spot the difference. Two major entities trying to get back off the ground this week. Without pilots. Well might we laugh at the lunacy of trying to run an aircraft without the necessary crew up front - but we've little room to smirk in Northern Ireland.

Here, we've had weeks and weeks of trying to run an entire country without anybody at the controls.

If Stormont was an airline it would have reached the end of the runway years ago.

It's the equivalent of no-frills political transit with its constant turbulence, parties refusing to take their seats and way too much cultural baggage stowed in the overhead lockers.

And we're all paying dearly for this - even if it doesn't seem to bother those cheery MLAs still picking up their salaries in their extended Duty Free.

Stormont is supposed to work with a pilot and a co-pilot. The unfortunate complication is that our current flight team are insisting on entirely different itineraries.

Never mind that we, the paying public, are just utterly, utterly sick to the back teeth with it all.

What started, we were told, as a fallout over wood pellets has now somehow morphed into a logjam over bilingual street signage.

Once again, two sides square up to each other and the only way this can end, seemingly, is with one side losing face.

It's as simple and it's as pathetic as that.

Instead of getting back onboard and sorting out their differences in the chamber and the committee rooms, doing the job they're (well) paid to do, it's been endless posturing and impasse.

Northern Ireland is such a small place. And yes, we've been through terrible times. But in recent years we've had a formidable tranche of money and goodwill and international support channelled our way.

We should be soaring.

Instead, we're bogged down in eternal bitterness apparently unable even to capitalise on a £1bn windfall that came our way by election fluke and could be used to dramatically enhance so many lives here.

People talk about our separate 'cultures' in Northern Ireland (or the North, if you prefer.)

But what about our common culture?

Call me biased but I honestly believe there are no better people in the world that the people of our small shared patch of earth. Our common culture, our real culture is a culture of kindliness, of compassion and warmth and humour and fortitude and decency.

A parent appeals on Facebook for money to finance treatment for a sick child and immediately they're inundated with help from all sides of the community.

There is no side here when it comes to reaching out a hand.

And this is replicated in so many ways and on so many occasions.

Yet electorally, over and over again, we're driven back into party political pettiness. A pettiness that is necessary to keep those parties in power. They can't rise above it, so we can't rise above it.

You would think there might be somebody - or some bodies - in the local political set-up who might be prepared to step forward and at least try to call a halt to this.

There isn't. This is no way to run a country.

At least with Ryanair you know they'll get back to full business sometime soon. Michael O'Leary has put his hands up, admitted the situation is not acceptable.

"This is our mess-up," he says.

But what about our mess-up?

Who takes responsibility for that? Who tries to put it right?

And who recognises how grossly, scandalously it shortchanges the local public?

Ryanair and Stormont.

Plain crazy.

X Factor mum right to stand her ground

Fair play to singer Debye Gaskin who stood her ground when Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Co argued that she should stand aside to let daughter Hayley Norton progress on her own on the television talent show.

I think the judges may have had a point - but there was surely a kinder way of doing it.

Usually in these awkward circumstances, the poor band member singled out for removal just breaks down and leaves.

Debye didn't.

And the pair still got voted through.

She can't be that bad, then.

Real battle of the bulge is in our postboxes

A mother complained after she found a Slimming World flyer in her child's schoolbag, sent home with their books.

Apparently she was upset that the weight-loss club's message could undermine children's healthy body image.

I'd be just as worried about the bumph. It's now coming at us from every direction.

The letterbox is a daily avalanche of unsolicited advertising flyers.

If you're like me, they go straight to recycling.

I never even look at them.

So the children, I think, will not have been unduly unsettled.

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