BBC NI Leaders’ Debate: more heat than light & then the leaders ran out of steam #bbcnidebate

bbcnidebate monitor 5 leadersThe hour-long BBC NI Leaders’ Debate (available on iPlayer) wisely ditched opening and closing statements and jumped straight in with questions from the start. It was initially a scrappy affair – perhaps feisty – as Arlene Foster (DUP) and Mike Nesbitt (UUP) interrupted and locked horns with each other, and Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) and Colum Eastwood (SDLP) squared up to each other. At one point the Deputy First Minister stepped in to stop a heated exchange between presenter Noel Thompson and the First Minister and peace reigned briefly before Colum Eastwood heckled and another fight started.

bbcnidebate spin roomQuestions on why it matters who was First Minister and dealing with health waiting lists were followed by one on why the Fresh Start didn’t address victims and survivors. The audience went quiet. The sound of chatter in the separate ‘spin room’ increased. The answers from leaders grew longer and interruptions all but stopped. While important issues, there was a general disengagement. Even the Twitter traffic on the #bbcnidebate hashtag seemed to wane. I wonder was there a power surge as kettles were boiled?

Mike Nesbitt’s early attacks over the DUP’s Five Point Plans and the five word election strategy of “Do Not Mention Peter Robinson” stung, but some of his later answers lacked punch and may regret quipping “we’ll take anything” when asked if the UUP wanted the education ministry.

David Ford (Alliance) was accused of leaking (and defended himself and his department). Asked to explain how an extra £1 billion would be found to fund health over five years, Martin McGuinness was less than confident as he explained how the monitoring rounds and Barnett Consequentials would serve this “costed” plan.

Despite provocation, Arlene Foster stayed on the right side of being spirited but avoided coming over as plain cross. While he had chances to answer questions, the other prized fighters didn’t waste their punches on David Ford, keeping him out of the limelight while unionists and nationalists picked on each other.

Very few policies were articulated. Very few specific achievements were quoted. Everyone wanted to depoliticise health and listen to experts. An audience member’s comment about “gay blood” allowed Colum Eastwood and Mike Nesbitt the chance to articulate their willingness to accept anyone’s blood. The issue of Gerry Adams’ tweet and how well the SDLP manifesto was costed didn’t surface. Instead, the DUP’s targeted constituent letters were waved.

bbcnidebate 3 small partiesThe leaders momentarily got their wind back for a final spar around how they could work together better in the future. And then it was the turn of the smaller parties (also available on iPlayer). Clare Bailey (Green Party) found herself stuck between Jim Allister (TUV) and David McNarry (UKIP) who were displaying their skill at playing the interrupting game, while Tara Mills successfully talked over them and kept control.

Despite a previous closeness, there’s now no love lost between the TUV and UKIP. At one point David McNarry accused Jim Allister of being likely to return to the Assembly as he had left it “a one man band”, only for the TUV leader to retort that UKIP would be a “no man band”. That’s as good as the banter got.

Clare Bailey said the main debate had been “uninspiring”. Jim Allister critiqued the lack of voluntary opposition – we wouldn’t have “stable or durable government” without it – and David McNarry said people on the doorstep told him the European Referendum couldn’t be separated from the Assembly election.

No one wanted to throw away their party’s chances 36 hours before the polls open and the leaders will be satisfied that they walked away from the Great Victoria Street studio with a few bruises but no major cuts.

The democratic process is unlikely to be a winner. Turnout dipped below 50% in three constituencies at the 2011 Assembly election, and was only above 60% in four. (Overall 2011 turnout was 55.7%.)

I saw little tonight that would encourage turnout, whether from normally active voters, new first time voters, or electorate who have recently stayed away from their polling station.

That’s a shame. Though it’s probably good news for the smaller parties who will disproportionally hoover up the votes of young people who can be bothered to vote.

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  • Brendan Heading

    A couple of things jumped out at me.

    First, the chairing of this debate was atrocious. Thompson – aside from systematically failing to bring in Ford (no surprise there) – wasn’t aggressive with the politicians at all and he didn’t press them for answers. I guess we’ve got used to Carruthers being a lot tougher and combative in comparison, Nolan moreso. Foster was basically let off the hook over the DUP’s constant warnings concerning the First Minister post. Mike Nesbitt was never substantially challenged, and at one point in the second half of the show he was given what seemed like a full minute, uninterrupted, to give a stump speech without any questioning or criticism at all.

    The UUP engaging in a pact with the DUP and then walking out of the executive, with the attendant proposal of opposition which appears to have been inexplicably withdrawn, has been a major matter over the past 12 months – Nesbitt escaped having to explain himself over that, and likewise the SDLP who have been less than committal about opposition. The SDLP escaped any questioning over the costing of their manifesto, the lack of confidence on the part of the party leader to appear on Nolan, and so on.

    Secondly, the event very quickly deteriorated into UUP vs DUP and SDLP vs SF spats. Tribal politics were evident as it was clear that at no point were the UUP and SDLP going to challenge each other. Martin McGuinness *backed up* Arlene Foster over Nesbitt’s point about the Social Investment Fund; and then went on to defend what appears to have been the DUP decision to block funding to inquests on the past. For this reason, Ford was locked out.

    None of the debates have been especially impressive but this one was plain dull. If Thompson isn’t going to do his homework on what to challenge our politicians on, maybe he should retire permanently.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well this is a debate. The leaders should quiz each other. Truth is that none of them wanted to challenge each other too much. It’s too risky. You can’t expect Noel to do that job for them. He’s being a moderator not an interviewer. The only one who really wanted to attack another was Martin who wanted to go after Colum. That was the surest sign I’ve had that the sdlp are doing well in Foyle and perhaps elsewhere. And Colum dealt comfortably with anything Martin threw at him.

    My criticism was the subject matter. You can’t decry the nature of debate here and then spend an entire hour quizzing then on the politics of orange and green. That comes from the questions chosen and is the BBC fault for a boring debate. It’s not the party leaders fault. They can only deal with what is asked of them and when Eastwood tried to answer an integrated education question he was stopped.

    The debate started with 10 minutes discussing the importance of a symbolic role of FM or DFM. What do we expect?

    Also it is just ridiculous to ask parties to say for sure that they will take a place in government or go to opposition. The media needs to grow up

  • mickfealty

    A clear policy thread throughout the evening would have helped. We must be the most under polled backwater in the western democratic world so think it’s inevitable we struggle to understand what will actually move votes.

    I’ll lodge a defence of Nesbitt though. He had a few good policy based stories to tell which got him the piece and quiet to say stuff uninterrupted by the others. Ford definitely sidelined, but not sure complaining about it helped or hindered.

  • Msiegnaro

    Ford was out of his depth and his side-lining was almost self imposed – no loss really.

  • Msiegnaro

    With another dull debate, I think it maybe time to call time on these televised shows as they do not get to the crux of the matters.

    I thought the audience were relatively poor last night, much of the questioning was weak and really what we’ve heard before with the usual robotic applause for their preferred candidate. It was shocking to witness McGuinness being applauded for his and the IRA’s role in bloody Sunday. Nesbitt capitalised nicely on something McGuiness said at the inquiry that there were things he did during his time in the IRA that he would never reveal which was a glaring juxtaposition when McGuiness called for a truth and reconciliation forum.

    Foster was clearly very aggressive and her main foe was the UUP and not Sinn Fein despite everything we have heard from the DUP camp during this election. The UUP do seem to be hurting a little with the electorate by their refusal to ask that voters exhaust the Unionist candidates on their voter forms via transfers.

    Eastwood was a surprise package and clearly bested McGuiness whereas in my view Nesbitt was the overall winner as he was calm, assured with some very good points. Foster may have lost a few votes with one of the worst performances although Ford may have edged her in this department with his staple whiney act that was thankfully side-lined during this debate.

    Of the mini debate, big Jim was the clear winner although he looks visibly aged and his message needs to resonate more with the voters. Strong potential that he will be more than a one man band (Watch Jordan Armstrong and Henry Reilly) and not long to wait now to find out. McNarry on the other hand looked confused and dazed – now is certainly the right time for him to bow out of politics.
    It was also great to see Thompson back on the BBC, a great political commentator with years of experience.

  • chrisjones2

    Aside from the National Issue gay rights and the 11+ there are no real political dividing lines so what is to debate? They are all soft left socialist spend spend parties in favour of more jobs, spending, education, etc, etc etc

    Its clear that the Programme for Government is already written by the DUP . SF cartel; , that Arlene is safely back as FM, that the SF and DUP want to stiff the SDLP / UUP where possible and that no-one thinks Alliance is even worth attacking
    .
    Hence the low key campaign as its all totally utterly irrelevant …as are we voters

  • Brendan Heading

    I don’t think anyone can take away from the fact that Nesbitt’s performance is consistently polished. The problem is that the policy and strategic detail isn’t. The DUP justification for pushing the issue of who will be First Minister is the same justification that Nesbitt used to participate in the pact. That’s one issue out of several upon which he wasn’t challenged.

  • Skibo

    I think you are forgetting the few punches Mike landed on Arlene also but I think the young lad with his question on Gay blood landed the biggest punch of all.
    As for Colum trying to out punch MMG in regards to the Dail elections, at least SF are not just playing lip service to their all Ireland policy like SDLP.

  • Skibo

    I have to agree Chris and really neither policy was properly debated. It actually looked like they had all agreed to try and be nice to each other.
    Can that be laid just at the feet of the leaders or should it have been directed more by Noel.
    I wonder how Nolan would have handled it?

  • Granni Trixie

    Whilst ofcourse I see why younger people – or anyone- would ask politicans to ditch dealing with the past issues – I can see how it’s most hurtful to people who have felt th full brunt of th troubles and who seek policies to ameliorate their situation.,

    I know it’s another kind of programme but I would be interested in the political views of young people specifically drawn from victims/ survivors families especially given that research shows the trans generational nature of the trauma experience of the troubles.

  • the keep

    Arlene Foster is the DUP`s shining star sadly for her, her performances on TV have not been brilliant or embracing and strangely muted.
    Nesbitt with his media training has performed well however when he is pressed on detail seems very shifty.
    Is Martin beginning to show his age does look interested and in fairness another 5 years of fights ahead doesn’t seem to inspire him.
    Eastwood has the makings of a leader in my opinion of all the leaders he seemed to be on his game and he wasn’t scared of taking on Martin certainly one to watch his party will have been impressed.
    As for David Ford well his quips and jokes have always been boring sadly for him he didn’t turn up at all.

  • Other

    None of the 5 parties can be described in anyway as “soft left socialist” nor “spend spend spend” as through the FSA they agreed massive cuts to welfare and public spending.

  • Msiegnaro

    I honestly couldn’t agree more.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Complaining about talking about the past should probably be lumped into the whole basket of The Past too.

    It’s simply not inspirational to any people in the present, it just comes across as sour grapes that people haven’t fallen in love with a particular political viewpoint or political action plan.

    In my view complaining about the past and complaining about complaining about the past, and even this complaining about complaining about complaining The Past and ever recursive iteration of complaining there can be about those complaints is pretty much keeping people dwelling in inertia.

    Many people in the past complained about The Past too, who really gained anything notable out of doing that?

  • Kevin Breslin

    We should scrap the leadership debate, and replace them with party spokespeople talk about policy debates.

    1. Executive, Finance, Justice
    2. Health, Communities, Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs
    3. Education, Economy, Infrastructure

    or 5/6 debates

    1. Economy, Infrastructure, Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs
    2. Justice, Communities
    3. Health,
    4. Education,
    5. Finance
    6. Executive

    or 9 debates on each issue.

    In the Executive debate leaders are not asked about OTHER departmental matters, they are asked about Department of the Executive matters, North-South Matters, East-West Matters, Government formation, and all the Parades, Past, and Paraphernalia.

    Basically the Leaders debate is Miscellaneous AOB stuff.

    In the other Departmental debates, the audience is forced not to tangent the debate off course to whataboutery and different issues than the topic matters.

    If they refuse their questions are dismissed.

    I know we are talking about more joined up government, but if we differentiate the issues along these lines things would be better.

  • Dan

    Seriously, people actually sat for an hour and watched that?
    Five buffoons who offer nothing, regurgitating the same policies year after year after year, all knowing that if there’s a controversial subject in the Assembly, it can be torpedoed.
    Five years down the line, no big issue will be resolved and it’ll be the same thing all over again.

  • Declan Doyle

    I agree with you completely, Nesbitt was by far the strongest.

  • Ryan A

    I honestly think Alliance will be changing leader in the next 6 months.

  • Nordie Northsider

    I’d watch such debates as long as Mr Diver gets to talk on Finance.

  • Msiegnaro

    It’s very much overdue, obviously these is only one contender but is she a party leader?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Everyone can make a mistake, I mean some people forget that the SDLP Finance Spokesperson is Claire Hanna.

  • Declan Doyle

    Nesbit was very calm and came across extremely polished, he got a couple of digs in against the DUP and he looked very dapper; the pink tie was a good wardrobe decision. Eastwood was surprisingly strong, he got away with a lot because no hard questions were hurled at him and he is obviously rattled by MMG in Derry as he heckled him at every turn. Arlene did well not to get too cranky at times, she can lose her temper pretty quickly but she managed to hold it together, Nesbitt certainly outshone her. MMG was his usual statesman like persona. He was very careful not to say anything that smacked of criticism of Arlene and gave the impression of a warm working relationship developing. He gets rattled too much when he is heckled which is probably why the young Eastwood kept doing it. His commitment to honestly engage with a future victims commission is hopeful. David Ford was pretty much ignored which is a pity because he probably has more Brain and more integrity than most of them.

  • Declan Doyle

    There is no room for mistakes in the modern day media. If you get it wrong it means you are a failure ;-(

  • Lee

    Just once, we should have a leaders debate where we are not allowed to talk about troubles legacy issues, or constitutional issues, and have to focus solely on bread and butter issues.
    In fact, the BBC should set up a sole debate ‘the health debate’, then an ‘education debate’ then an ‘economy debate’.

  • Kevin Breslin

    More heat than light is a good analogy if it were not for our tendency to actually prefer calorific power generation to solar power generation in this part of the world.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well that’s a straw man argument. It’s got nothing to do with the hypocrisy in demanding that the SDLP give an affirmative answer on going into government when they wouldn’t expect the same in the Republic.

    Nesbitt is a very polished performer. He may well have won this one. But the only problem I have with that is that I think that the best performances are polished without looking polished if that makes sense.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Do you have a view on lucidtalk polling? How reliable it is?.

  • Declan Doyle

    SF did give a firm answer from the outset of the election. They would not support a FF or FG led government and they stuck to that promise in the aftermath. Moreover, as soon as the votes were counted SF then made it clear that they were happy to talk but did not have the numbers to form a Left alternative and therefore would not be in government. Perfectly clear and consistant.

  • Lionel Hutz

    They have been blasting Fianna Fail who said the exact same thing. Hypocrisy

  • Declan Doyle

    They are a skilled organisation but it is quite difficult to poll accurately given the make up of Northern Ireland society Green/Orange/Other/Neither.

  • Declan Doyle

    Fianna Fail have broken two major promises in just five minutes. They are putting Enda Kenny back in as Taoseach and refusing to Abolish Irish Water. They deserve to be ‘blasted’.

  • Lionel Hutz

    No no Sinn fein were blasting them NOT dealing with FG. Lol. Now they criticise them for allowing a minority government. Well there you go. Typical

  • Declan Doyle

    No no, SF were blasting them for engaging in a charade when it was perfectly clear from the maths and on the basis that both parties are effectively the same right of centre outfit that no other option was available. FF put themselves in this situation pre – election because they never wanted to be in government with anyone, they hoped to build from opposition and were terrified by the growth of Sinn fein. They thought by ruling out FG and SF they might return with 30 plus seats and then spend another five years building back to 1998 levels. It all backfired. badly.

  • Gopher

    It was a gruelling watch, no doubt about it. What I took from confirmed much of what I Know already.

    Ford. Calm and intelligent but lacks drive and a combative nature. Alliance need a figurehead. He basically confirmed he was only able to operate if the DUP and SF allowed him to do so.

    Marty. Looks tired and the mental process has visibly slowed. I could not understand why he kept getting sucked into combat with Eastwood. I put it down to the establishment paradox. SF want to run with fox and hunt with the hounds but always over react when a nationalist accuses them of being establishment, the constantly requiring DUP validation was touching when in tight spots. Marty’s use of language throughout was so pre agreement. It’s tragic really.

    Mike. I just think he is all over the place it’s used car salesman talk.

    Foster. Was always going to be target number one and was unpolished early doors. Once the talk came round to government as the only party that comfortably embraces government she was unmatched

    Eastwood. “Our community” was the sole line here, It worked as it annoyed Marty, But Alliance, PBP and Greens will be happy nobody will be returning to the SDLP fold on that performance.

    Ford probably sneaked the thing on actual substance but Foster unashamed government stance probably will reasonate the best.

  • ted hagan

    I thought it was bad form by Noel Thompson looking for responses and questions from an intelligent audience and then ignoring nearly every one of them. What was the point in that case? It would have been more productive listening to responses than listening to five politicians waffling on without being challenged.

  • ted hagan

    Hopefully this might indicate a s shift on both sides from the extremes to the centre.

  • ted hagan

    How about putting them in front of a group of hardened journalists to really grill them?

  • ted hagan

    Ford has become institutionalised.

  • Skibo

    Also FF can now sit back and take credit for all things good that the new Dail carry out while having no responsibility of governance.
    Question will be will the electorate think if voting for FF gives a FG government then why not just vote for FG.
    Weird thing was FF fought the last election on putting FG out of government only to prop them up again.

  • Skibo

    The two are not the same. If elected to Stormont with enough members, your are entitled to a seat in government. You can accept it or refuse.
    My bigger concern is if UU decide to stay in and work the executive and SDLP refuse leaving their seat to go into de honte process and leave a possible Unionist majority executive.

  • Granni Trixie

    Agree with mch of what you say except To add that I as happy that DF did not get dawn into combats which looked just like squabbling – not a good look.

    TBF, is it not the format and having to share time with 5 performers that produces a static format? There must be a better way. For example every night UTV interviews each leader in an informal setting. It’s certainly more engaging and more likely to reveal personality (presuming one exists,that is).

  • Granni Trixie

    You are referring to Mr Adams,I presume?

  • Declan Doyle

    Everyone

  • Granni Trixie

    Brendan – not necessarily – you obviously missed Nesbitt talking to Nolan on UUP manifesto – the worst I have ever heard.

  • notimetoshine

    Couldn’t agree more.

    But the the parties would never agree to this. Without the troubles and constitutional matters to fight over they are essentially husks of half formed and uncosted policy and generic platitudes on health and education

  • Msiegnaro

    Innovative thinking like that Ted is exactly the way forward.

  • notimetoshine

    But the past is crippling government here, nothing gets done. Everything is reduced to a debate about what happened, who did what and why. They just can’t move past it. Are we doomed in NI to have the past and constitutional issues regurgitated ad nauseum?

    They should have a second chamber in stormont, a past and flegs chamber where various parties can shout and name call over this and that until the end of time and hopefully free up the assembly for real business.

    As for those who felt the brunt of the troubles, they still need jobs and schools and functioning hospitals as much as the next guy. I don’t see why they would be hurt by the government and political class where they live doing something unique like oh I don’t know govern?

  • Croiteir

    That is right. Just ignore the most important issue of all in the hope it goes away

  • notimetoshine

    You could be right on Reilly, depends on how much of John McAllisters vote he can poach. Though having said that south down is hardly a tuv friendly constituency can’t see many vote for him West of kilkeel.

  • Gopher

    Ford is too clever for that and came out well but he just does not have enough charisma that is needed in politics it’s no disrespect to him but he would be better in the chief of staff role rather than the leader

  • Graham Parsons

    It would certainly be good comedy value watching the 5 main parties try to out dinosaur each other. Comedy Central might pick it up.

  • Croiteir

    And not only that runs one of the worst institutions in the Western World

  • Msiegnaro

    I thought this too but he seems to have a very strong personal vote. I don’t know much about the individual but I have heard that since his switch to TUV he has became more popular and I think a severely weakened Wells could be in danger here.

  • conals

    I’d like to have seen McNarry and Allister just go full at it with an assortment of household implements. No one thinks more highly of themselves than Jim Allister. No one comes across more senile than McNarry.

  • conals

    I’d say that was fair. It ended up being ‘snitchy’ and petty between the respective orange and green camps whereas DF gave suitably ‘are you surprised’ looks to camera. Broadly, it was dull as all hell and wholly predictable with key issue being ignored. The issues that actually matter to people aren’t being discussed by these five… folks want more liberal abortion laws, a stop to the interfering in personal life choices, a fix to the enormous NHS waiting times for treatment and home grown jobs that keep kids here rather than chasing foreign direct investment which is all SF and DUP seem to think they need to chase when they aren’t grandstanding to their own tribes.

  • conals

    However, the real leader in waiting of APNI is itching to get her teeth into a Ministerial role.

  • scepticacademic

    Hardline unionist celebrity death-match? 😀

  • scepticacademic

    Being forced to watch that number of debates would be a good alternative to ‘community service’ for the Dept of Justice 😉

  • conals

    Well yes, but I’d have called it hardline Neo-Nazi death match and made them wear the outfits etc.

  • scepticacademic

    Are they mutually exclusive? Hasn’t DF combined party leadership with Justice minister?

  • Lee

    What , you couldn’t cope without the constitutional question or troubles issues for just 1 hour long debate and focus on purely health matters instead ?
    I don’t know you’re health circumstances but if you have been near house bound and in agony for over a year awaiting a hip op in NI I’d say you might do without tribal politics for an hour on your TV.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “So stay at home and drink your beer
    And let the neighbours’ vote
    Said the man in the Golden Breastplate
    Under the Old Stone Cross.”

    http://www.famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/william_butler_yeats/poems/10475

  • Kevin Breslin

    He ruined Gerry Adam’s Twitter Account for me. 🙁

  • Lee

    Well, if a big party refuses to attend, their place should be given to the next smaller party. I’d say the TUV , Greens and PBP would only be to delighted to expose the bigger parties failings.

  • tmitch57

    This should make it easier to poll as most of the population is voting for a subset of all the parties–either voting for one of two nationalist parties or one of four unionist parties–on the first preference.

    This should make analysing the polling data easier.

  • Joe Blogs

    They are all a bunch of tossers. We need new blood.

  • ted hagan

    Agreed, McNarry is dottery all right.

  • Ryan A

    Ford has kept Alliance bumping along nicely, but Naomi is clearly the future of the party. If Arlene’s selection conference was a coronation, I don’t know how to describe what Naomi’s will be. She has shifted the equivalent of tetonic plates in her own seat, something few politicians in NI can say; three of the current leaders haven’t once been an MP and two haven’t managed to get themselves returned on ‘Count 1’ at assembly level.

  • Ryan A

    Yes – from the mouth of a general Alliance supporter. For a Unionist or Nationalist, a serious threat.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Colum is 33. How young do you want them?

  • Vince

    It’s not. I didn’t watch the debate but was able to score it.

  • Brendan Heading

    I did indeed miss it.

    I don’t rate Nesbitt myself, because I don’t think he has any substance, but I think this is a matter of style over substance.

  • Croiteir

    The constitutional question affects health outcomes. For example if we had the economies of an irish health service over the entire island instead of two the outcomes for people would be better. Our children may even get cancer services

  • Msiegnaro

    I’m the last one to defend MMG however, he is getting on a little and it’s only normal that he maybe a little tired and uninspiring, however I don’t think his age should be used against him.

  • Lee

    I think most people can tell the difference between a health debate and trying to steer onto tribal issues. For one debate only – how do we reform the health service in NI what will each party do?

  • Croiteir

    What’s tribal about having a view on the impact of the constitutional question. And the attempted framing off the debate shows hhe limitations of your position. Let’s talk about the benefits and problem with implementation if an irish health device that ignores the border but addresses the health needs of the people

  • AndyB

    It was me who asked about the distinction between “promoting” and “creating” jobs and whether the new jobs were better paid than the ones lost (me cynical? me?), but I thought I’d share a little moment from the warm-up, because it wasn’t my first good question of the day.

    The warm-up used a few of the unused questions from the audience, with four audience members on the podiums. I threw another supplementary in, when I asked “When was the last time that a petition of concern was used for something that actually affected one side of the community over the other?”

    The question went down very well with the audience, and there was one answer from the podiums, from a decent guy I first met at the UTV leaders’ debate: “Same sex marriage.”

    I didn’t get a chance to say I didn’t realise there were more gay Nationalists than gay Unionists… 😀

  • Lee

    The bulk of any health discussion in NI will be about reform and improvement of the NHS; which hospitals to close, centralisation of complex services, farming out lower level services to GP surgeries and health centres, levels of professional staffing against bureaucratic managers, prescription charges, where to invest, prevention and so on. Framing a debate and scrutinizing politicians within such parameters is completely reasonable and of immediate benefit to the people who use and work in the service, and such a focus is badly needed. The politicians get to play constitutional games all the time, 1 debate without such an escape device I think the majority of people would welcome, and lets keep that perspective, it is one debate.

  • Croiteir

    And wouldn’t it be better if, when reviewing all of the above to consider what health outcomes would be delivered if we included access to health services everywhere. Dublin is just down the road from Belfast. Closer than Cork. It has a population which gives it better economies of scale allowing for more services to be delivered economically rather than the duplication and waste we have due to the border. I personally have experience of this as one of my children needed s blood transfusion in the womb which necessitated treatment in the hospital out in Partick as the hospitals in Belfast could not offer it. We would rather have went to Dublin as it was an easier trip which would have caused less upset to our family and less stress to the patient whoever the obsession that unionists have for the border had this negative effect on us and others.

    That is why the constitutional question is of fundamental importance. It impacts on people in every single level. It is the hook in which all else hangs.