Tuesday, 10 February 2009

N.I Politics - stuck between a rock, a hard place and an MLA.

*SPLASH* That’s me, diving in straight into the deep end with a slight belly-flop. Yep, my first real blog entry is heading into the most treacherous of all interface zones in Northern Ireland... Politics.

To get underway I’ll borrow the words of a local from Stroke City who is now working for the BBC, comedian Danny McCrossan;
“Asking people in Northern Ireland what they think of politics is like asking the Jews what they think of Hitler”.

I reckon this joke pretty much highlights the sentiment of disillusionment and anger towards those supposedly elected to represent our best interests - both here and in the wider world.

Why this feeling? Suffice to say the long version of the story goes back centuries longer than I’ve lived here. But sure, it’s easy to catch up with a couple of recent examples...

Just yesterday for instance, the Environment Minister and MP, Sammy Wilson decided to block a government TV advertising campaign. A campaign he described as an "insidious propaganda campaign”.

What was this insidious propaganda we wonder? Well it was TV advertisement to promote reducing your energy consumption – turning off lights and your TV when you are not using them, that sort of thing. So not exactly the ‘buy a portable nuclear reactor for you home today’ campaign his words conjured up (in my mind at least).

According to the BBC coverage of the story, it appears that our friendly Environment Minister was to some degree acting on his own hunch – He holds the view that man’s contribution is not the main cause to the current rise in global temperature. Seemingly therefore, he is telling us we shouldn’t be bothered to try to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.

I’ll not delve into my view on the legitimacy of his personal view too much, other than to say I disagree with it. I would also put forward the suggestion that as a Minister he might want to seek council from someone more readily informed (or maybe any second opinion outside his party) in the future.

The outcome of this is that the Environment Minister denied the public of something that could have benefited Northern Ireland (if only a little) - even if it promoted a view he didn’t share. Surely some people who aren't as 'clued up' as him, could have benefited by this push to advise them to save energy? The individual saving money in the long run and by doing so helping to cut emissions and reduce this countries demand on fossil fuels in the process.

Only in November of 2008, Wilson’s fellow party representative (Energy Minister, Arlene Foster) from the department of Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, declared;
“The era of us relying on cheap fossil fuel energy is over and we must become more energy efficient by seeking to reduce our energy consumption.”

Here is a thought! Maybe Arlene and Sammy could trade posts?

In my view and in this instance; Sammy Wilson hasn’t managed to uphold one of the first aims listed by the very department (The Department of the Environment) to which he holds responsibility and accountability for:

“The Department's aim is to improve the quality of life for everyone in Northern
Ireland through:
- the promotion of sustainable development principles in all the activities of government and wider society “

Sadly he isn’t alone in drawing controversy from centering his own beliefs at the expense of what most of us would probably call common sense.

Last year saw MLA Iris Robinson (wife of the current First Minister Peter Robinson) jumping into the headlines in a spectacular manner. To put it simply, she is quoted in the House of Commons committee minutes as saying;

“There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually
abusing innocent children”

I’m not sure if it was for this comment, her other opinions aired in a similar vein in a Radio interview I listened to at the time or comments made to other members of the press, but the end result is that quite rightly the PSNI have forwarded the case against her to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Sadly it does appear that there is a trend for those who (hopefully!) aren't the best candidates for the job to end up in a position of control here.

We all suffer the consequences.

Don’t get me wrong; I do believe the way to a truly stable and permanent peace can only be brought about through continued dialog, education, development and politics. Thankfully there are some MLA’s and Ministers out there (from just about all the parties) who bring back a little credibility to the show. People who seemigly work without letting their own prejudices and unfounded ideas get in the way of their judgment... if that is actually possible in the current climate of N.I Politics?

For the whole thing to work, I believe everyone has to be in politics for the right reasons but in N.I, probably more than most other countries, that just doesn’t appear to be so.


  1. Hi, I find your blog v interesting, although I've never been to NI. There's a theory that the NI political process was kind of infantilised by the years of direct rule. All of the parties were effectively in opposition, and so didn't have to carry any responsibility for their words or the consequences. Does that seem plausible? If it's any comfort, a colleague of mine was in Donegal a short time ago, and reports that it's commonly accepted there that all politicians are simply corrupt.

  2. Thanks Brian. I think you are probably right with that theory.

    The disinterest in politics from a lot of people does seem to stem from the controlling parties disregard for anything but looking out for what they perceive as their own. Thankfully the voice from people and parties that aren’t tied to the divisions of society that still hold major grudges, are becoming more frequent. With a growing pressure from the moderate side of society (its hard to tell but I believe that to be the majority of people in N.I - especially within the younger generations), it will hopefully bring a little more accountability into the system over time.

    In the case of Sammy Wilson, today it was announced that the Environment Committee of MLA’s has passed a vote of no confidence in him. So there is hope yet!

  3. Sammy Wilson always was a bit of an idiot. I'm amazed he's still in politics.

    He taught me careers studies in school. His classes usually involved marking the (multiple choice) papers he gave to his economics class.

    All I really remember is that he pitched a world class hissy when his motorbike was banned from the roads in Northern Ireland for having too big an engine.

    Oh and he occasionally ran naked through forests with some blonde haired woman while being photographed by a shocked onlooker.

    Yes the photo did make it into the Belfast Telegraph.

    And yes the photograph was blown up to huge proportions and posted on all the school notice boards

    And if he asks, no I didn't put up the one outside the staff room.



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