I feel it fair to say that 2016 is a year I’ll never forget. Towards the end of the year critical illness paid our family a visit, with a close relative following his unexpected collapse requiring three major surgeries, one of which has had a life changing impact. Although this has been a difficult time for us this whole experience has helped put life into perspective in that today I refuse to sweat the small stuff or tolerate those with short memories, small-minds or cold hearts.
Now enough about me. Never known to fail, I see our friends in Stormont are doing a fantastic job exposing how useless they really are. Following my short break I return to blogging once again finding that the politicians have made my past analysis of them seem overly fair, optimistic even and at a push generous! If recent events are anything to go by then Stormont truly is as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. And, as the limelight continues to be hogged with one fiasco after another we must question what deals are being done in the background.
As far as I’m aware the Stormont budget was due to be published in December 2016, now unless I’ve overlooked it, I can’t find it anywhere. So, a question is, if this has not been published then why not? Another question is, will the costs incurred via the heating scandal have an impact on the money required for public services? And ultimately, does anyone up there really know what they are doing?
Now to the latest Stormont scandal (yes another one) which involves quite literally burning taxpayer’s money. This is of course the Renewable Heating Incentive, a heating scheme which allows the participants to heat their butts whilst receiving £1.60 for every £1 spent. This scheme set up in 2012 is set to cost taxpayer up to an approximate £500 million in the coming years through a failure to evaluate the cost and potential consequences of such a clearly overly generous offer. In the spotlight for this mess has been The First Minister Arlene Foster who was the former Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment when the scheme was established. Despite her department being responsible for setting the scheme up, making a complete bollix of it, and being warned of the flaws by a whistleblower Arlene says she’s not done anything wrong. Can you imagine if this was a department in a business losing a few hundred million quid?
You might remember the ‘Hoover’ free flights fiasco in the early 1990’s, buy a Hoover product for over £100 and get 2 free airline tickets? Too good to be true, well unfortunately for Hoover it was true and ended up costing the company £48 million quid! The long and the short of this was that despite the scheme being the brainchild of two Hoover Marketing Executives Michael Gilbey and Brian Webb a number of Hoover executives were sacked including William Foust, managing director of Hoover Ltd and president of Hoover Europe.
There have been not so unreasonable calls for Foster to step aside in advance of an inquiry into this scandal from her political opponents but as you would expect big Arlene is staying put and denying all. Indeed she has gone as far as to complain that this is due to misogyny, for such an intelligent woman I cannot understand how she is confusing misogyny with incompetency? I believe that Arlene is following the lead of the DUP’s Nelson McCausland who stood firm over his part in the Red Sky fiasco. In this case McCausland was later found to have acted inappropriately by a Stormont Committee. Subsequently, a motion calling for the assembly to investigate whether McCausland misled the assembly was blocked using the Stormont get out of Gaol card known as the petition of concern. For those who don’t know what a petition of concern is, it’s a veto that can be implemented if 30 MLA’s sign it. So, if a party with 30+ MLA’s disagrees with something in Stormont they just pull out their petition and boom, lights out! In the immortal words of Sheldon Cooper – Bazinga! I doubt the outcome of this latest fiasco will be any different with the petition of concern at the ready.
Now in contrast, Daithi McCay former Sinn Fein MLA took one for the team when he was outsmarted by fleg protestor Jamie Bryson and resigned when it was found he was advising Bryson on how to address a Stormont Committee, Daithi it seems was expendable. McCay’s then party colleague Martin Mr Ó Muilleoir, Finance Minister, refused to stand aside for an investigation after he too was caught up in the Brysongate coaching scandal. At the time Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness the Deputy First Minister accused those seeking for Mr Ó Muilleoir to stand aside of engaging in "petty party politicking". Hasn’t Arlene said something similar recently?
In response to the heating scandal I have found some politicians a bit watery, so watery indeed it became difficult to know who was who in that old orange and green zoo. Sinn Fein appear to have lacked the required leadership in this matter, actually, any leadership for that matter with their calls for Arlene to step aside coming a bit late in the day. And not forgetting that in an Assembly no confidence vote in the First Minister Sinn Fein MLA’s didn’t turn up for the vote. No doubt they were all in the toilet!
I would argue that Sinn Fein raised more of a stink over the annual Bonfire in the Bogside and cleaning costs than they have over the burning of hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money. Sinn Fein’s response to this nonsense has even been questioned by some of their supporters publicly with one supporter in a letter published in the Irish News stating, ‘Sinn Féin should pull theStormont charade down or hang their heads in shame.’ I reckon Mr. Reilly from Belfast who penned the letter has been taken off Gerry & Martin’s Christmas Card list.
The Stormont ‘opposition’ on the other hand have been shouting the loudest on this issue as you would expect. Although when all is said and done they are only shouting. Surely a more effective show of opposition would be for them to take to their heels and walk out. Because, until they have enough numbers between them to out vote the SF/DUP love triangle they’re just pissing into the wind, so to speak. Now think about this, if the 42 MLA’s who make up the opposition official and otherwise walked out, how could Stormont be considered functional with over 45% of the elected representatives refusing to engage? There have been calls for a new election. People Before Profit/SWP were first to voice the need for an election, a call which was later faintly echoed by Sinn Fein. Unless People Before Profit/SWP feel they can make electoral gain as a party then why bother? As surely voting patterns show that the orange and green trend will return the same sh1t on a different shovel.
Now something I have touched upon in this article is how Sinn Fein created more of a stink over a bonfire in the Bogside than the ongoing heating scandal, after all I haven’t heard any Sinn Fein Policing Board members calling for the return of the IRA, to deal with heating incentive miscreants. I haven’t heard those MLA’s and elected representatives who bemoaned the cost of clearing the remains of the Bogside Bonfire speak with the same vigour on the heating scandal. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of bonfire’s, however I feel had the situation been better dealt with the outcome could have been different.
At the other end of the spectrum was the recent tantrum in the local press by a Sinn Fein member/ community worker who raised concerns about the bonfire cleanup costs yet gave off a stink because some enterprising people had generously given their time to clean up back lanes in and around Elmwood Terrace and the adjoining streets. Why would anyone complain about people cleaning back lanes for free? Well this Sinn Fein member/Community worker represents a community group that was charging people £15 to clean their back passage (Cue Kenneth Williams LOL). Yes, this group will have the weeds in your back alley removed and sprayed, for a fee, so you know where to go for a trim that is if you have £15 to spare.