THE WEEK THAT WAS….British_square_at_Waterloo_op_544x744

“The sand of the desert is sodden red – Red with the wreck of a square that broke.  The gatling’s jammed and the colonel dead, And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.  But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks – “Play up! Play up! And play the game!”

Given Monday’s reports that the DUP Assembly party had split down the middle over the details of the deal their negotiating team had taken over 100 hours to produce, there was a whiff of blood about not just the DUP’s commanding officer, but the whole kit and caboodle.  What a difference four days make.

Judging by this morning’s laugh-along at Hillsborough, today was a Zip-a-dee-doo-dah sort of day.  You could almost picture Mr. Bluebird sitting on Mr. Brown’s shoulder as his supporting cast had to hold themselves back from a chorus of “it’s the truth, it’s actual, everything is satisfactual”.

Only time will tell just how “satisfactual” everything is.  No-one has quite explained just what the movement was – if any – that made the difference to the DUP, nor has the dust settled long enough to work out just what exactly will happen on the parading issue.  It would appear that there are still negotiations to be had and not everyone – particularly the UUP – has bought into the new dispensation.

Over the last few weeks Northern Ireland politics has entered into the realms of ‘Footballers’ Wives’ with allegations and rumours of sexual and financial sleaze abounding.  Indeed, Nigel Dodds’ statement after Monday’s stormy party meeting that Peter Robinson is “a first class unionist leader and enjoys the full support of the party” bore an uncanny resemblance to the fulsome vote of confidence Chairmen give football managers before they ignominiously give them the boot.

While the TUV will assert that the DUP’s ‘square’ has broken, it’s apparently ‘Game On’. In our zero sum game politics, though, we demand winners and losers.  When Hillsborough is fully digested, the public will decide who ‘blinked first’; an offence usually punishable by slow political death.  Hold on for a lively General Election.


Oral Questions

OFMDFM Questions were dropped due to the Hillsborough talks but the sleep deprived Environment Minister who was part of the DUP negotiating team kept his slot.  Up for discussion was the £8m area plan for Belfast (BMAP) which has been missing in action for years, Rose Energy, High Hedges and the Road Safety Council.

A similarly sleep deprived DFP Minister tackled queries about sprucing up Portrush, support for SMEs and job creation, although the wisecracks were sadly in short supply.  On an even more mundane level the Assembly Commission answered questions about hot topics such as the quality of the vending machines in the Assembly’s restaurant.

Written Answers

OFMDFM confirmed that the Capital Asset Realisation Taskforce is unlikely to realize anything this year and DCAL noted that there are more culture crows than culture vultures in Magherafelt; the council spends a pitiful 37p per head on the arts (£29 in Belfast).

Since December, 279 schools have been hit by burst pipes according to Education, DETI has a draft target of 300MW from tidal power by 2020 and DoE welcomed the fall in waste being sent to landfill.  According to DFP 33 people died officially of obesity in 2008 while Health spends £2.4m on anti-obesity drugs.  In case you’ve been wondering, DRD doesn’t have a policy on naming bridges.


Another fairly bland week for Committees. Hopefully DARD, though, could see the wood for the trees as they discussed the Forestry Bill.  DEL met the needs of NEETS (Not in Employment, Education or Training) and DFP discussed its draft procurement policy report.

DRD was contemplating a Northern Corridors Railway Study, Education was totting up spending plans whilst DETI donned its collective pakamaks to consider NI’s Tourism Strategy.


Maybe it was the release of pent-up nervous energy which fuelled the hilarity at the Hillsborough press conference; or maybe everyone had just spent too much time in close, confined quarters with Sammy Wilson.

The FM quipped that Northern Ireland should push for ‘negotiations’ to be recognized as an Olympic sport.  Although Mr. Robinson accepted that further negotiations would be required to agree a flag and anthem when the gold medal was secured, he is clearly becoming delusionally optimistic in his old age.

The Olympics are in two years time.  There’s absolutely no way we’ll have agreed by then who’s in the team (they’d have to be selected using d’Hondt), team colours, team name or the First and Deputy First team Captains.  Dream team?  Dream on!