When is a leader not a leader?
When he’s from Norn Iron!
On Friday afternoon the English TV stations came out with the news that they were going to hold a seven person leaders debate in the run up to the Westminster Elections.
Plaid Cymru with three members is being included, as are the Green Party who have the princely sum of one member in the House. The Scottish Nationalists with six and UKIP, who have poached two members from the Conservatives, are also going to be in the fray along with the Big Three; Labour, LibDems and Conservatives.
Our two, Peter and Gerry, are not being invited. Perhaps it has something to do with Sinn Fein. If they ask the DUP to take part then for parity of esteem they would have to invite Sinn Fein. In that case you would have the ridiculous situation of having a non member of the parliament, but a member of a ‘foreign’ parliament, taking part in a leader’s debate.
In fairness to the British, even I think that that would be a ridiculous situation.
But once again it shows the old truth about Northern Ireland not really being part of the United Kingdom, and we can expect that during the next parliament when the constitutional position of both Scotland and Wales begins to change that we will become less and less connected to the ‘Mother Country.’
Even the term ‘Mother Country’ is a misnomer. Did you ever feel protected by the English or their forces? I don’t think that many of the people of Derry or West Belfast would look upon England as a mother!
But back to the TV debate:
“DUP leader Peter Robinson said he would write to the BBC and ITV to ask why his party has not been included, in spite of being fourth largest at Westminster. Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance have all said they should be involved.
The new proposals include plans for two debates featuring the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, SNP, Green Party and Plaid Cymru. There are also plans for one debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband.” (BBC News Friday.)
A bit of advice, Peter; with all the cutbacks and lack of money in the New North, don’t waste the ink. They don’t care about us, they don’t consider us as part of the UK and you would be better spending your time and energy on something else.
Last week I also had one of those once in 45 years events; I found myself agreeing with something the Alliance party said. The Alliance Party was formed in 1970. Some bloke from the party was on the radio talking about the cuts in Northern Ireland. He made a very valid point.
Next year Northern Ireland is facing a severe cut in the block grant. His point was, ‘why did the Executive in Stormont not try and raise some money instead of only putting in place cuts.’
You know, when you think about it, the behaviour of our leaders in imposing cuts reflects the fact that there is no joined up thinking in our parliament; if Stormont could only come up with some way of raising £200 million that would make a big difference to the embattled poor of our land.
There are plenty of big houses dotted throughout the country which could well afford another £500 apiece on rates. Why not put a levy on all workers earning over £30,000 a year of £5 a week. Surely extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
That is the problem with our politicians; they want the power but not the responsibility. The allure of sitting in Stormont with your nice suit and your tablet in hand is too much for them, but when it comes to being real leaders and making tough decisions they hit the poor and sick and hide behind rules.
However, if we can’t agree on real taxes what about a few novelty taxes. Here are three that would please a wide cross section of the community.
First, we could tax Orange sashes and charge each Orangeman a tenner every time he goes out to march. That would please the Catholics.
Second, we could put a toll on all the roads crossing the border and charge a pound for every trip up and down. This would please all the Orangemen who could not really complain then about the tax levied on them.
Finally, in order to please the nice people of ‘Cherry Valley’ we could fine everyone who uses Orange or Fenian in a derogatory way, the princely sum of fifty pence.
The sum of all these would easily reach £200 million but would probably leave Newry and Enniskillen empty, everyone at home on the 12th, and 100,000 people going around twenty four hours a day with their mouths taped up. What a province we live in!
When I was proof reading this it dawned on me that I had referred to Northern Ireland as a ‘community.’ This prompted me to look up the word community in the dictionary and in fairness it gave several definitions. Here is the first:
“A social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.”
To be honest, I don’t recognize that image of Northern Ireland and that is why we are going nowhere. For a country that has so many Bible believing Christians in it, we don’t appreciate what Jesus said, ‘a house divided against itself shall fall.’
What is the great social stigma of our times? It is no longer your sexuality since we live in the ‘anything goes’ era. Nor is it religion since no one bothers with that anymore.
No, it is none of these. The big social stigma of our time is, wait for it, being single. Being single is no longer socially acceptable; if you are single you are seen as a failure and automatically become an embarrassment to all around you.
But we have now got a knight in shining armour to save all those poor lonely people who are alone in the world.
“A new service has launched that offers users real-world and social proof that they are in a serious relationship in order to avoid the "societal stigma" of being single. Invisible Boyfriend and Invisible Girlfriend charges a monthly fee of $24.99 (£17) in return for 100 text messages, 10 voicemails and one postcard from a fake partner.
The service allows users to select the name, hobbies and even the look of the boyfriend or girlfriend, as well as a back story about how they met. The texts and voicemails are sent by real people through a tech company called CrowdSource in order to make the experience as realistic as possible.”
In its advertisement the company uses a photo of a beautiful young woman standing holding a mobile phone and texting someone. For all our modern attitudes there are still some things that are taboo.
What is wrong with being single? Surely we all have times in our lives when we are without boyfriend/girlfriends. This is part of the everyday experience and yet for all our liberalism there is a perception that we all have to be perfect in every way. There is no allowance for a bit of seeming failure, which being single definitively is not.
Greece was a bit of a failure too, but now it looks as if it is going to cause a bit of bother for Frau Merkel and her friends in the European Union. Some relative unknown called Alexis Tsipras, who a couple of years ago no one had ever heard off, romped home to an amazing victory in the Greek election.
Immediately the European politicians went into panic mode. Tsipras says that Greece is going to re-negotiate all its debt and expect a lot of the debt to be written off.
What do you think will happen? Greece is one of the minnows of Europe, one of the poor crowd and the rich countries of northern Europe think that they can punish them and leave them in poverty forever.
Is Greece right to say that enough is enough, or to put it another way, how long should one member of a family be made to suffer for mistakes?
The Eurozone countries are all meant to stand up for one another and the whole basis of the euro was that there would be one currency and everyone would be equal. It is obvious to anyone who has observed these past five years that there has no kind of equality in Europe; the poor countries have been left poor while the rich are getting richer.
But there often comes a point when a member of a family cannot make it alone. We have all had situations in our families where shouting and complaining and threatening are no longer any use and we realize that some sort of family care and understanding has to overrule everything else.
There are countries in Europe which will never be able to pay their debt and trying to force them to pay it is holding the whole continent back from achieving economic growth. It is time for a bit of debt forgiveness.
The Greek election came at a good time for the Greeks. Just last Thursday the EU announced the implementation of Quantitative Easing which is another word for printing money. The whole policy focus in Europe has now shifted to getting people to spend but before people spend they have to have their old debt written off.
What is the sense of saying to Greece, ‘you can have another five billion a month, which we hope you can spend to make the country productive again,’ and then at the same time say, ‘and, oh, we need six billion a month in debt repayments.’
It simply does not add up.
What the Dutch, the Finn, the Austrians and the Germans do not understand is that others in Europe do not see money the same as they do. Culturally, in these countries money is to be used for the common good; it is to be saved and used on a rainy day and not to be spent foolishly.
In Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, money is used for buying and selling and if you run out of money you print or borrow some more. If it is ever paid back, so much the better, but if it is not repaid, then so be it.
You know, it really boils down to a Catholic-Protestant divide on how we see the world. For these northern European protestant countries rules and regulations are more important than anything else; a contract signed is binding and it is totally wrong to think that it can be broken.
For years this is the way that Europe was ruled. All that changed last Thursday when the EU brought in the dreaded Quantitative Easing, the method that southern European countries have used for years to make their countries work.
The Catholic attitude is totally different from their friends in northern Europe. For these southern European countries, rules are sort of important but when a contract is unenforceable then it is thrown aside and some reasonable compromise is made.
In southern Europe, people are more important than rules. And for me at least, this is the way it should be. In Ireland, particularly in the Free State, over these past few years, as we have lost our Catholic identity, we are taking on the northern European thinking but this is causing big problems as there are many people who don’t want to go that way.
But such thinking is handy for the banks; when you rigorously enforce the rules it is easy to justify throwing people out of their homes, but you make sure that such rules are not rigorously enforced on the banks.
That’s the problem when you begin to live on rules, you know that in reality they are going to be enforced only against the weaker people. International Law gives us a good example.
Since it was reformed in 2002, the International Criminal Court has only dealt with cases in Africa. There is now some investigation going on into alleged criminal acts in other parts of the world, but all the cases started to date, have been about Africa.
Do you think the US, Britain, France or Germany, will ever stand before the judge in such a court? Of course they won’t and for the very reason I said earlier; the rules in these things only apply to the poor countries.
Germany and the others shall do everything they can to brow beat little Greece into submission. But with the introduction of Quantitative Easing or the printing of money, the tide is turning.
I hope they hold out and get a good debt write off.
In all spheres of life, forgiveness is necessary if society is to function in any just and meaningful way. Surely by now enough people have died in poverty and by suicide for even the northern Europeans to be satisfied.
The views expressed are not necessarily those of
the editor but are the views of the writer.
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