The pressing need for ‘power to speak unto the people’…

So that letter finally gets to make an impact now the columnist have gotten hold of it… Brian Feeney is probably most direct and accute in his answer to our question: “A legitimate complaint, or case of bullying from the top?” Accroding to him, it was neither. Rather it was weakness:

The Belfast Telegraph’s sin was to point out that the executive has failed to address the precipitous drop in sales and output here and the corresponding ascent in unemployment. Martina Purdy’s sin was to ask for an explanation for the same gaping hole in the bucket. In both cases the response from the Office of First and Deputy First Minister was to forget that they are elected to serve the public and that the public require answers.

Machiavelli is worth referencing in this context. His advice to rulers and political leaders was to make your position as contestable as possible. That way it keeps you strong, and your political institutions strong. As Fionnuala O’Connor noted in her slot on Hearts and Minds last night, neither party leader is accustomed to an internal culture of contestability. But if politicians are to really engage with the public, and importantly in this post troubles era, remain relevant to ordinary people, they must make themselves more rather than less available to media interrogation: whether it be hostile or friendly…

Otherwise the air of unreality that glowers around Stormont, whilst the rest of the island and the kingdom burns is chewing up the credibility… Silence is not an option. Feeney again:

Today the taoiseach is going to announce another round of savings, in his case ‘in government’. He’s going to reduce the number of junior ministers by five and instantly save a few million euro. He has already announced changes to pensions for ex-ministers who are TDs and reductions in expenses. Here, the good times roll. What we need here, and soon, is a rallying statement describing the financial circumstances of the north and explaining in terms what’s going to be done.

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