I was a guest of NIGAG on Friday evening at their Christmas soirée. Guest of honour however was Owen Paterson, Tory shadow Secretary of State. There was, let’s say, a robust exchange of views. Patterson’s response to complaints that Northern Ireland had missed out on several public sector initiatives was to contrast the situation north of the border. He noted that “34% of GDP accounts for by public sector in the Republic against 71% in Northern Ireland. That’s at Soviet levels. Whilst in the south it makes sense for anyone with ambition and intelligence to start their own business, in Northern Ireland it makes much more sense for the most intelligent to go into the public sector or leave.” He reckoned that if the transformation of the Republic was anything to go by, it would probably take about twenty years to effect an economic transformation. Probably not far removed from the kind of message Gordon Brown sent the First and Deputy First Minister at the start of term. Grow an economy first, then you can have your money. Until then, not a penny more!