THE WEEK THAT WAS….talking-heads-true-sto-lg

Talking Heads clearly wasn’t a band with any local roots.  They may well have shared our trajectory on the ‘Road to Nowhere’, but anyone from Northern Ireland could have told them the opening line was just wrong, wrong, wrong: “Well we know where we’re goin’, but we don’t know where we’ve been”

The problem with this place is that we know exactly where we’ve been and have absolutely no idea where we’re going. 

It’s hard to believe that only a few weeks ago Hillsborough Castle (or more correctly, the Plough Inn opposite the gates) was home to a media scrum as those interminable talks dragged on.  Today, however, the investigative appetite for all that unfinished business and the various working groups is rather patchy; perhaps the hacks are still recovering?

The Parades Working Group handed in its homework on Wednesday, but nothing more was said.  On Tuesday OFMDFM managed to agree its long outstanding Cohesion, Sharing & Integration strategy – not that anyone has seen the details, save perhaps the Alliance leader, David Ford, who felt it was sufficiently good to allow to him to run for the Justice Minister’s job.

In fact, there was an awful lot of running this week. UUCNF has agreed to run nine agreed candidates at Westminster, although Lady Hermon is refusing to budge from the blocks and is threatening to impale her spikes on Sir Reg’s toes.  Alliance and the TUV have also picked a few more runners and riders, but the SDLP may be in danger of running into the ground if it can’t find a suitably strong candidate to replace the ever reliable Eddy McGrady in South Down who has just retired.

Finally, just when you thought nothing could be more badly run than post-primary transfer, it appears that the reform of Local Govt. is in danger of collapsing at the side of the track before the race even starts – principally because there’s no agreement on how it’s going to deliver cost savings, the rationale for starting the entire process several years ago. 

Just how many times can the Assembly drop the baton and get away with it?


Oral Answers

The Education Minister received a hard time about a lack of detail concerning her capital spend budget but found more favour with her support for STEM subjects and combating vandalism.  Over at DEL apprenticeships were back on the agenda, the Minister didn’t rule out a merger with DETI and stressed the need to up-skill the economy in light of the forthcoming demise of selective financial assistance.

The DETI Minister wasn’t sounding overly optimistic that visitor targets would be met in 2011, but did talk up opportunities arising from the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912 and local construction job opportunities arising from the Titanic Signature Project.

Written Answers

No date from OFMDFM yet about publishing legal advice arising out of that Spotlight programme, DARD tackled concerns that this year’s poor potato crop will adversely impact Tayto and DCAL noted that the functions of the now defunct NI Events Company are likely to transfer to DETI.


DETI revealed there are 553,000 economically inactive people in NI and that 64% of disabled people fall into that category. DFP confirmed that rates arrears stand at £77m, Health has no plans to open a Medical Faculty in Foyle and DRD confirmed that it’s an offence to place boulders on publicly maintained grass verges.



DARD considered the wet fish that is the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, DEL was briefed by Belfast Metropolitan College, DFP considered rates relief for carers while DRD held its nose for a session with NI Water about septic tanks.

DSD was paving the way for Town Centre Regeneration, DoE was absorbed by its Wildlife Bill, DCAL was also in inquiry mode (arts funding & sports participation) while DETI was planning its spring getaway courtesy of a briefing by NITB on upcoming campaigns.


Thinking about Talking Heads reminded me of Conall McDevitt (SDLP, South Belfast), former boss of a local PR firm and general talking head on the broadcast circuit.  To be fair to Mr. McDevitt he has quickly established himself as one of his party’s more able and articulate MLAs.  Unfortunately for him, the Health Minister wasn’t feeling terribly sporting this week and thought he’d put the SDLP’s health spokesperson back in his box.

The Minister was clearly delighted (well, as much as he does ‘delighted’) to see that the “PR Guru” had issued a press release with the rather unfortunate headline: “McDevitt: Executive has responsibility to abuse survivors”.  There’s plenty of competition, but at this rate the pair of them will soon be competing for the most mutually aggravating double-act in the House.