“As the largest party in the executive, the DUP would veto any attempt to remove ‘Her Majesty’ from our prisons’ titles.” Peter Robinson First Minister
“Calm down” and avoid knee-jerk reactions. Deputy First Minister
The common sense approach is often an elusive and sought after trait that the electrate want our ‘Folks on the Hill’ to possess. But, once again when the bread and butter issues such as the rise in fuel cost, food and high unemployment are at the forefront of every other government, we in Northern Ireland still retain the ability to revert back to default. Out of left field, or the centre if you want to be politically correct, comes a resignation and possible collapse over the new Prison Service emblem.
Now, correct me if I am wrong but these words are familiar to the rhetoric of the old guard DUP. It appears once again that the sense of ownership of the public services in Northern Ireland is still a divisive issue across the Unionist divide. The main bone of contention being the removal of HMP and the Crown symbol. The failure however, is not in the ability to see common sense, it is to have the debate about dealing with the past.
This is part of the past and the overall image of the Prison Service for one community in particular, is that one community is the key master and the other, the prisoner. It is this narrative that we must also acknowledge. If the electorate voted for the Good Friday Agreement/Belfast Agreement then surely we cannot go back to tribal politics when the very reforms we voted for, come to fruition.
Now for some common sense. If we look at the re-branding of the PSNI and the emblems included in the badge, what we have is a safe option which has been agreed by all parties already. All communities are represented via the symbols on the badge, not to mention the sun rays in the background to emphasise a new dawn but it appears that this dawn has not yet risen above the red mist of Robinson.
The PSNI badge had to reflect the community it serves and the public service provided by the Prison Service is no different. Justice Minister David Ford is in essence, trying to re-brand a service that quite frankly is out dated. Ford seems to want to have his own say on the issue and perhaps add a personal touch to attribute his name to.
What is wrong with that? Well, it appears Peter Robinson has decided to ‘pull rank’ on David Ford and remind him of whose boss. ‘Not on my watch,’ he says, as he tries to claw back some of the dissenters from the hardline TUV.
But if the separation of powers is to remain and the Justice Ministry is to be devolved in full, surely Ford should be given the resources he needs in order to do so, with consultation of the executive of course and the two largest parties. So, another consultation fee will no doubt be paid. Again, a money saving tip for the Executive, use the resources we have and stop duplicating costs.
Allow me to indulge you in a sensible alternative which may also offer even more comfort to all involved. Brand all the branches of the Justice Department with the same emblem template but with different colours to allow for differentiation of course, or to go further, roll out the same template for all oublic services.
Much like that of the Departments in the Executive which use the same emblem but with different colours. Again it creates uniformity, joint ownership and would take the sting out of the argument. It way also allow for those in the Prison Service to feel that they are part of the Public Services Sector and not the bastard child of the justice system as was so often felt. The neglect of the Prison Service has been going on for too long. It is time for change.
And I am afraid that Peter and Martin are going to have to take their seats on their respective podiums and perhaps, for once, debate and oppose an issue. Would make a change to what we are used to. A stagnant legislature which aims to stagnate and infect the processes that it is supposed to uphold and hold to account others around.
Norn Irony blogs at www.nornirony.blogspot.com