I noticed a tweet from Eamonn earlier on noting how both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness managed to keep their holidays intact whilst David Cameron had no such luck.
It’s been a strange inversion of past realities to see the British PM running to keep up with the multiple crises besetting his country, whilst our boys take it easy in Florida, or by some fast flowing river in Donegal. Spare a thought too for Enda Kenny et al, whose feet have barely touched the ground since taking office back in February.
In Northern Ireland, summer means long summer holidays, avoiding awkward decisions or talking up what you’re gonna do (avoiding, as much as possible, any allusion to the reality that if either party in Stormont Castle doesn’t like it, it ain’t going to happen). Alex Kane is expansive on the point of Stormont’s dysfunctional lack of productivity:
Four months after the election they still haven’t agreed a Programme for Government. Thirteen years after the first election they haven’t agreed the definition, let alone the agenda, of a ‘shared future’. The programme for local government reform is in tatters; there is no resolution to the farces that are the parades and human rights commissions; there is no progress on individual or collective responsibility; there is no overarching strategy underpinning executive policy; and Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson are, to joined-up government, what the Tellytubbies are to a physical fitness regime.
As if to prove his point, we have the bizarre news that despite the fact Sinn Fein refuses to have anything to do with organising the World Police and Fire Games, due to come to Belfast in 2013, the party’s Culture Minister and Belfast Lord Mayor are off to see this year’s games in New York (price tag, £12,700) in order to promote the very games they purport not to support in the Council.
You couldn’t make it up!
Kane goes on to suggest that Margaret Ritchie is on her way out, but that neither McDonnell nor McGlone have a credible answer to the party’s problems. He gives Conall McDevitt (late of this parish) a dunt on the way too, suggesting he cannot shrug off his role in promoting Margaret Ritchie as swiftly as he would like.
And finally, an apology, to the only man left in the Assembly providing anything like a consistent challenge function, Jim Allister:
Finally – and this doesn’t often occur – an apology: to Jim Allister, as it happens. Before the election I wrote a piece in which I said that if he did become an MLA he would be an un-influential, lone voice, struggling to be heard. Well, he certainly hasn’t been struggling! Indeed, some of the most interesting and relevant questioning of the past few months has been generated by Jim. He has proved himself to be a very effective one-man opposition and even some former detractors have developed a grudging respect for the integrity of his criticisms.
You’d expect someone who has so recently hailed from either of the second placed parties to be so pessimistic. But the problems he points to are real enough. With no competition where’s the incentive to be good (or just to avoid the weirdly contradictory) at doing politics?
It might be argued Fianna Fail’s current malaise resulted from a lack of viable opposition over the last fifteen to twenty years, even though the electorate had the means that the Northern Irish electorate do not possess to pull the trapdoor long before they belatedly did.
More importantly where’s the incentive to hand back what must feel like a good thing (if you’re on the winning team)?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty