The outcry over the attendance of Jamie Bryson at the House of Commons Northern Ireland Select Committee (NIAC) misses the point. This is a hearing as part of the Committee’s look at “Devolution and democracy in Northern Ireland – dealing with the deficit.” in Northern Ireland.
The NIAC look at “dealing with the deficit” in Northern Ireland has most probably been considered timely given the seemingly on-going impasse in discussions through 2017 (and into 2018) towards restoring devolution: or not, as at present. Presumptive or with great foresight, the Review now seems of greater interest in looking forward – notwithstanding the attendance of Mr Bryson and the subsequent Alliance Party hissy fit in that regard.
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What’s the alternative? What’s the choice?
There have been a number of social media spaces that have been playing with numbers each Party might lose/gain in the upcoming elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly. Plenty of predictions elsewhere.
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Time for the return of the Court of Blair to the public arena. Like ducks in a row, on the subject of the EU, Blair, Mandelson, Campbell weighed in with all the wisdom of the most successful Labour Government ever.
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First: Cover Your Ass.
Having been focused on travelling and/or working in the later half of 2016 the RHI story was in the background, though hard to miss the heat and noise around the issue.
At the start of 2017 it seemed that despite the heat and noise, there wasn’t much light on the subject. Nolan was on repeat. While plenty of titbits were being bandied about as if Moses had just revealed them himself, nothing seemed to be moving the story forward. The story of RHI had become left behind by the political story unraveling before us.
Worthwhile at this point to rewind. Helpfully, early last July the Northern Ireland Audit Office produced a report on the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme. You can read the report here along with the summary contained in the accompanying press release.
If you want to know about the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme then you really should read the NIAO report. It provides a timeline of events, the likely immediate impact on budget finances and a series of actions that had been agreed within the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment in particular.
And it is worth listening to the short two minute item here from UTV(ITV) on the scheme, closing with the Minister, Simon Hamilton, confirming a pathway forward in respect of addressing the failures of the scheme. The NIAO summary of what was launched into the public arena back in July 2016, is easy to recognise:
The RHI scheme encouraged the installation of costly eco-friendly heating systems by paying a tariff per kilowatt of heat burned over a 20-year period. It was administered on behalf of Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM). Read more… »
From the UK it might have been expected that on landing at Dulles just a few days before election day there would have been a palpable air of outright ferocity, divisiveness and hostilities arising from the mutually corrosive election campaigns of Clinton and Trump.
In the event, all was calm. As were the mostly Republican friends encountered over the next few days. There was no great enthusiasm for Trump as President, but generally agreement that it should be ‘anyone but Hillary’.
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This blog piece has been a little while in the making. Earlier, in March, the effort to try to better understand what was going on in the American Presidential Primaries prompted a trip to Washington DC. Probably overdue and making good, finally, on often made promises to visit, this was a chance to meet old friends and gain a first hand sense of what was going on.
Here was an opportunity to hear the views of people involved in education, lobbying, journalism, policy and politics. With the exception of the ex-pat journalist, of whom I would not presume to ask political affiliation, everyone else was a Republican. Anyway, morning TV included CNN, MSNBC, CBS, etc, as well as FOX. Balance restored.
At the time of the visit Trump was still in the end stage battle with Rubio and Cruz, and Clinton still had some months to go of a slugging match with Sanders before getting over the line with the delegate vote required.
So in a few short days, what sense could be made of American politics generally, Presidential primaries in particular?
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With the new larger Local Councils up and running there have been a number of stories in the local news about the cost of rebranding – new logos or, in this recent case, a new coat of arms.
There are many arguments for spending on rebranding to create an identity for a new body where it is about bringing a community together, good and bad. Very often this revolves around the final visual identity, the logo, and whether it is considered good or bad design.
Whatever the cost of the process this is voted on by Councillors and agreed by Councillors. So to not be prepared to reveal the cost where the spending was “unanimously supported by all parties at Monday night’s Council meeting” seems a little odd and overly-secretive.
If Councillors they are prepared to defend the project on which the money was spent, Councillors should be equally prepared to reveal how much is cost. After all it is the local rate-payer, the taxpayer, who is funding the ceremonial trappings of Council. It is the taxpayer to whom the Councillors are accountable.
The Government is currently looking at Freedom of Information requests, and their cost. Here is a very small example where a Council is not being open, not being accountable. In the total budget it may not be a big item, but it tends to a reluctance of elected representatives to be very forthcoming about how much of our money they are spending and allowing the taxpayer, and voter, to make up their own mind on what is value for money and what is not.
The Government should not be looking at the cost of Freedom of Information requests, instead it should be working harder on more open and accountable government at all levels that reduce the need for FOI requests in the first instance.
Nothing much changes in Northern Ireland politics, on the surface.
So when three of eighteen Westminster seats have new Members of Parliament does that represent significant change, or just a wee bit of a shuffle? What do the percentages and numbers mean for the Assembly elections in 2016? Read more… »
Class War: the changing face of a political culture.
As a political activist at University, nationally, Class War was a very loud and visible presence on the student and youth political scene. Not so much politics as political culture.
Bashing the rich seems to be a mainstream political cause to the Left of British politics today, indeed of ‘Progressive’ politics everywhere. Didn’t work out for President Hollande in France, but the Left has always been big on rhetoric and short on delivery. Read more… »