Good Lord, we are into October. We are, in fact, at the half way point of the tax year, which began on the 5th of April and ends on April 4th 2015, and we have spent £200 million more than we should have.
Not bad for six counties. Daddy gives us 10 billion a year to spend and we blow it all too quick; ‘spoilt brats’ comes to mind.
You can picture a little rich boy and his friend, having blown his allowance, he and his best mate jump in the family jet and head off to Scotland for a few drinks with the boys before they start a round of golf.
Not having the cost of the green fees between them they claim that they are there to drum up a little business for the family concern and do a small piece of ‘networking’ with the nice people of the golfing world but be careful to clear out before it is their turn to buy a drink.
You have to hand it to Peter and Martin, they can always be sure to do the right thing at the wrong time; someone should have given them a fiddle and let them play while we all burn.
“To fiddle while Rome burns: To do something trivial and irresponsible in the midst of an emergency; legend has it that while a fire destroyed the city of Rome, the emperor Nero played his violin, thus revealing his total lack of concern for his people and his empire.”
I found this definition on the internet. What a brilliant description of the New North. And did you see why our executive could not discuss the subject of the missing £200 million at the meeting on Thursday; they could not agree how to talk about it!
What an absolute farce! The country is grinding to a halt and our leaders cannot agree how to talk about something. England, Scotland and Wales are about to enter discussions about the whole future of the United Kingdom and our lot cannot even agree ‘how to talk’ about the family finances.
Instead they run off for a wee confab with the golfers: talk about hiding your head in the sand. I wonder did Martin or Peter ever hit a golf ball in their life.
But there was a bit of good news at the weekend and it came from an Ulster Unionist councillor over in the Strabane/Derry area. It was about the name of the new super council up there and guess what, they can’t agree what to call it.
Some want Londonderry to be mentioned and others don’t. (Do you think anyone in Northern Ireland will ever come up with an original argument instead of replaying all the old ones?)
Anyway, Derek Hussey wants the new council to be called Foyle District Council the said his suggestion of Foyle District Council would be all "inclusive" and "apolitical".
The story had a lovely wee map of all the new councils in Northern Ireland. There are eleven of them and although they look big for Northern Ireland, in reality they are not that big; on average about 170,000 people in each.
Then it hit me. With the breakup of the United Kingdom as we know it now immanent, we could rent out the whole place to the Chinese, the way Britain rented Hong Kong from them for 99 years. On 1st July 1898 Britain leased Hong Kong from the Chinese, who really didn’t want the place as it was a wilderness and had no strategic importance.
Does that remind you of anywhere?
I think Northern Ireland being leased to China would not be that hard for us to stomach.
For a start we could send everyone in Stormont over there to learn Cantonese, our new ‘mother tongue’ and while they were there they could go to Tiananmen Square and learn a thing or two about crowd control.
Imagine Martin and Peter sitting in a classroom in Beijing trying to learn Cantonese!
We would have no more elections because the Chinese are notoriously adverse to democracy, much as the Unionists were in the days of gerrymandering.
We could move the Northern Ireland New Year to the 12th of July and could cover all the Orangemen in one big long dragon costume thereby giving offence to no one: they could march and we could laugh. Brilliant!
‘Chicken curry with fried rice’ would become the national dish, (some would say it already is) and we could start a whole new line in green chopsticks with shamrocks on the end. It would be idyllic.
The chickens are coming home to roost. In fairness to Peter Robinson, even the DUP is beginning to admit that Northern Ireland is ungovernable, and any country that is ungovernable is a failed political entity.
We simply cannot continue in a country where politics is carried on in a narrow political vein and where sectional interests override everything else. We have to choose whether we are going to make this place work or not.
During this past couple of weeks we have got a very real insight into the minds of our politicians. When the talk began about devolving more tax raising powers to the countries in the United Kingdom our men nearly had a fit.
On the subject of tax devolution:
“Mr Robinson said devolving corporation tax was doable and valuable.
He said transferring stamp duty, land tax and landfill tax may be doable but he was not convinced of the benefits.”
Note the air of hesitation.
“It is one thing to say that you wish to have additional tax powers, it is quite another to say how they would be used. Just because other devolved administrations have sought or got such powers does not mean that Northern Ireland should automatically demand the same,” wrote Sammy Wilson a year ago, when talking about NI21.
Being consistent in his opinions Sammy said again last week:
“But, the DUP's Sammy Wilson said it would be wrong to devolve more powers.
‘Even with the powers we do have, and we have fiscal powers at present, we have also powers over welfare payments, etc., we have not been able to reach decisions,’ Mr Wilson told the BBC's Inside Politics.
In fact, we are now in a situation where our budget for this year could be in great jeopardy because of the repayments we're going to have to make to Westminster, due to Sinn Féin's intransigence.”
Notice what Sammy Wilson says when speaking about the powers that Stormont already has: “we have not been able to reach decisions.”
The place is in deadlock. We can’t have normal democracy because the Unionists would dominate and run a ‘Protestant country for a Protestant people,’ and Sinn Fein have no interest in making the place worth living in because they say Northern Ireland should not be here at all.
And it is becoming abundantly clear that Sinn Fein is now more concerned with promoting Gerry for Tánaiste during the great centenary year of 2016 than in looking after their constituents in the north.
To this end, wanting to be in government in the Free State with Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein has to pretend to be up for more tax raising powers in the north. The same report continued:
“Speaking on the same programme, Daithí McKay said more fiscal powers should be devolved to Stormont.
‘I think it's important to put this into context and the reason we are facing a lot of difficulty at the moment is because we don't have a lot of these powers,’ he said.
‘The Tories did cut our budget for the previous four years, so that is why we have the pressures we have on the health service and other public services.’”
What is wrong with us, why do we want to run the country into the ground rather than agree?
There is no community here, there is no unity of purpose. We are totally divided and we prefer to be that way. Division is always the wrong thing in a country. Look at the US where the Republicans and Democrats are destroying a great nation for ideological reasons.
They have a saying in Africa and it applies so much to the ordinary people of Iraq, the US and the poor people of east and west Belfast:
“When elephants fight the grass gets trampled.”
The rich people, the ones with the good jobs, plenty of money or guns or whatever, can fight all they want, it is the people at the bottom of the pile who suffer.
There is no Christian spirit of forgiveness or of understanding in the land. There is no serious attempt at reconciliation because everyone has to hold on to the lie that ‘our side was right.’
Jim Prior set the record straight in a programme on Monday night. He said that violence does pay. Not a very popular thing to say but, sure we all know it to be true. The programme was by David Taylor and it asked the question, “Who won the war.”
“Violence probably does work, it may not work quickly and may not be seen to work quickly, but in the long run, one has to look back and say it did work, he told documentary maker Peter Taylor.
I know we did not win it but I am not certain the other side won, he said.
As time went on it became possible for both sides to get into a position where it was easier to make peace than make war.”
Who do you think won the war? Do you feel like a winner? To be honest, I don’t. In fact when I see the progress that other countries in the UK have made towards nationhood without a bullet being fired, I actually feel a little ashamed.
Perhaps Wales and Scotland have something valuable to teach us; violence does not pay.
What should we, the Catholic people of Northern Ireland do now?
Maybe we should learn from our faith and from organizations that are built around the church’s structure. I am thinking about the parish structure and the success of the GAA on running its organisation along the same lines.
In the parish we work together as a community, coming before God with our problems and issues and trying to sort them out. But the important thing is that God is the focus and the community is willing to do what he says.
In the GAA and other such groups the young are looked after and cared for. They are given a chance to flourish and mature; they are encouraged to do their best.
Charitable organizations such as St Vincent de Paul, whose feast we celebrated on Saturday last, help to look after the poor and less fortunate; they try to reach the marginalised.
Looking at the map of the ‘super councils’ again, Northern Ireland is not much bigger than a good decent sized parish; my idea might work.
But all is not lost: on Sunday two local lads came to the aid of Europe when they won their matches and helped keep the Ryder Cup in Europe for another two years.
When you think of it, six counties and three of the best golfers in the world; Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McElroy. We have some of the best golf courses as well as what is obviously the leading golfer in the world at the moment.
We should all be proud of them. Perhaps our invisible Secretary of State could hold a civic reception for them.
On Sunday evening Ms Villiers announced more talks.
“The secretary of state is to convene inter-party talks to try and solve outstanding political issues, including flags, parades and the past.
Theresa Villiers made the announcement at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
She told party activists disputes over flags, parades and the past are consuming ever increasing amounts of time and resources. She said both the British and Irish governments would be involved.”
Not again! But tell me, Ms Villiers, do you seriously believe that the Catholics in the north want the Free State up here representing us?
And another ting, who gives a hoot about whether or not the parties talk? What about trying to get us a few jobs or perhaps that elixir of all economic life on this island, a bit of inward investment?
But it was what she said about the Welfare Reform that should concern us all:
“Ms Villiers used her annual address to the party faithful to criticise the stance of Sinn Féin and the SDLP over their welfare reform position.
She said on the reform of the welfare system that the government has no more to give.
The secretary of state urged the nationalist parties to accept the changes at Stormont and said their refusal to implement change is holding us back.
She warned that welfare is devolved, so Northern Ireland can maintain parity with the rest of the UK or go it alone.”
The noose is beginning to tighten and our lads on the hill continue to bury their heads in the greens of Gleneagles.
If we could only lease the place to Beijing, the Chinese would soon make them sit up: we can but dream!
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