Another sleepy week at Stormont as the House meanders its way to a gentle flurry of activity before disappearing in July – rather like British attempts to win Wimbledon. 

Ears did prick up though at the sound of a debate about underachievement in Protestant working class areas.  Somewhat indulgent of the House to provide time to discuss the disappearance of the UUP from Belfast, but post mortem’s can be a voyeuristic public spectacle, particularly if the corpse is still twitching.

Alas, the debate was about educational achievement instead, a much more worthy topic which garnered cross-party support, but as noted on the Floor, something which was debated back in January 2007. Plus ça change.  At the rate the UUP are going though, perhaps when the Assembly invariably discusses the issue again in 2015 the only major difference will be the lack of UUP MLAs debating it.

Apart from that, there wasn’t a whole lot to get the juices running.  Things may have been starting to look difficult for the Justice Minister, given the number of deaths in local prisons, the preponderance of officials to declare unilateral amnesties for felons and the growing chaos in the courts as lawyers refuse to play ball over cuts to legal aid.  We may ‘all be in this together’, but evidently some are more in it (or should that be ‘up to it’) than others.

Fortunately for the Alliance Justice Minister, ample political cover was provided by the DUP’s Chair of the Justice Committee who had a pop at our learned friends, warning them that the Assembly would not be backing down.  No sign of the ‘cosy consensus’ cooling off any time soon.

Talking about ‘balls’, the Broadway Roundabout / interface, is being bequeathed two gigantic steel spheres in the cause of public art.  Apparently the £486,000, 37m tall structures reflect the area; the “piece doesn’t turn its back on anyone” and “looks the same from all sides”.  I can already see Alliance Party spin doctors lining it up as the perfect pic for the cover of their next manifesto.  

Better hurry up though, come July it will probably turn into a community-art project, complete with new paint scheme and bunting. 

Maybe there are two balls to ensure that nobody gets left out……


David McIlveen (DUP, North Antrim) gave one of the most interesting Maiden speeches ever delivered in the House, primarily because of the insight it provided to the complicated inter-generational to and fro of the McIlveen family.

Granny McIlveen hailed from Co. Cavan and believed fervently in a 32-county Irish republic.  Unfortunately for her, her offspring turned out to be ‘rebels’ of completely the wrong sort – a prominent Free Presbyterian minister, an RUC officer and a member of the Ulster Unionist Party.  Her grandson is now a DUP MLA.

Someone once said: “Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression”

Poor Granny – just where did she drop the little McElveens?