More substance [less showboating] can take the opposition out of their splendid isolation

Having given the media the slip we’re none the wiser over Sinn Fein’s public inquiry flip-flop. Rumour is that Mairtin jumped when Brokenshire signalled he would call one. If the late switch is embarrassing, it gives him the means to set its terms of reference (and keep Finance out of the glare).

[Spare a thought for poor Declan Kearney, who was the first SF MLA to mention a Public Inquiry, then had it slapped down as a misspeak, then yesterday after drawing a line in the sand on GMU saying it would never happen, had it the line redraw by Mairtin whilst Evening Extra was on air.]

As for the opposition, as I noted before Christmas they’ve been guilty of overreaching. Whatever it looked like at the time, the DUP were never going to throw Arlene under a bus, and now Mairtin, not them, has control over the definitive inquiry into the matter.

In the process, they’ve risked giving SF a licence to consign the whole package into a dark pit for a period of their own choosing.  But there was some signs of intermediate (if not quite senior) hurling standards from the SDLP’s Nichola Mallon last night:

It’s textbook opposition play. Welcome the positive action. Point out that you’d advocated this from the start. Use your opponent’s potent strapline (£85k a day) as the cost of their delay. And the kicker, to highlight probity and avoidance of damage to legitimate businesses on the scheme.

More substance, and less showboating, can, over time, take the opposition out of their splendid isolation from power and towards credibility in an NI that’s slowly turning voters (but more pronounced amongst nationalists these days than unionists) away from our self-indulgent institutions.

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  • ted hagan

    The demand that Foster step aside should been sacrificed early on to ensure the full public inquiry and could have avoided the election. It was a daft demand from SF and the opposition. The ‘naughty step’ approach indicated some sort of punisment, no matter how these parties try to pass it off.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Your posts seem to be about everyone bar the DUP.

  • ted hagan

    One thing that especially puzzles me about the RHI debacle. Why was there a sudden spike in applications? No, I’m not being dense. The scheme had been well publicised, Foster had promoted it early on and urged the banks to support. Where were all these savvy business people when this was going on and why did they rush in many months later at the last moment? Were they asleep? It just seems odd, that’s all. Any shrewd businessman or domestic user would have been queueing up at the very beginning.

  • mickfealty

    Good question Ted, well worth asking. I’m going to do a short separate post on that. Stand by?

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Likely SF to blame…..I jest Mick.

  • On the fence!

    Whereas everyone else’s posts are about little else.

    Maybe he’s just trying to balance things a bit.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Maybe, but then everyone else isn’t the site Editor

  • mickfealty

    Nope. Departmental officials in the negative, but there are other reasons the scheme had poor initial take up, and then spiked.

  • mickfealty

    You’ll see a cautious line on RHI throughout (something I’ve been taking stick for privately as well as online).

    Reading the outturn of the story, you’ll begin to understand why. The govt break up story is far more informative/important.

  • Sharpie

    It takes time to see if it is suitable – its still new technology for lots of people used to oil. People eventually started to see the evidence of others who had the boilers installed and once the generosity of the scheme became apparent – next step get quotes and some plans (by this stage the installers were working flat out and struggled to keep up with demand). It takes a few months from deciding to explore the option to going operational. Clearly the insider information that it was going to be curtailed caused the stampede. I still wonder why the press hasn’t gone to the industry itself to find an inside scoop – there are not that many installers and they all know each others business – a few quid would turn up a completely different and salacious perspective.

  • Brian Walker

    Does O Muilleoir have the power to set up a inquiry even as a functioning finance minister? .

  • On the fence!

    Indeed, but with great power comes great responsibility!

    I can’t imagine that anybody would actually WANT to stick up for the DUP at the minute!

  • mickfealty

    Yep. It took them a while, but I thought Mallon’s position here is where they ought to begin the next time: ie, get across the detail and stand alongside real people who are getting harmed by the unfocussed messing of others.

  • mickfealty

    With permission from the DUP in the bag (Andrew Crawford as the price of the bargain?), I think so.

  • On the fence!

    Given that the shinners plainly don’t actually give a rat’s ball about the RHI thing, it would then follow on that there’s certainly much more behind all this indeed.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    He’d be a bit of a masochist on the quiet, but that’s in the DUP job description – self flagellation.

    Please don’t punish me Mick. We’re only messin’.

  • mickfealty

    I’m not doing conspiracies, but yes. We’ve had no rational explanation as to why we’re going to election. It’s a bizarrely counterintuitive quarter of the universe we’re travelling through.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Hang on there Ted. I may be miss remembering, but Arlene spoke of an inquiry but not a PUBLIC judge led inquiry. I think she hoped to “pull a Robinson”….remember him, the last one…. the punter that managed to be found “innocent” in a report that the public never got to see. You can keep casting about, but the elephant (sorry Arlene) in the room is the DUP. Start, middle and end of this whole omnishambles.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Because Arlene refused to step aside.

  • file

    Because Sinn Féin supporters want an election. And want Sinn Féin to stop lending legitimacy to the DUP by sharing power with them. Continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result is … not only madness, but stupidity. Unless Ian Óg stages a successful putsch, no one should ever share power with the DUP again. They are a toxic brand.

  • Lionel Hutz

    “As for the opposition, as I noted before Christmas they’ve been guilty of overreaching. Whatever it looked like at the time, the DUP were never going to throw Arlene under a bus, and now Mairtin, not them, has control over the definitive inquiry into the matter.

    In the process, they’ve risked giving SF a licence to consign the whole package into a dark pit for a period of their own choosing.”

    Mick, seriously how could the opposition have ever had control over the difinitive inquiry.

    I understand ur point about calling for the exclusion of the first minister. But when it comes to an inquiry and coming up with solutions to the spending…..the opposition could never have been in the driving seat.

    The fact that there is an inquiry at all is due to the pressure put on by the opposition. That is a victory

  • mickfealty

    Sorry, I meant when they scale up the problem they took out of the Opposition’s hands (Committee inquiries, etc) and gave it to the Minister…

  • file

    Nichola Mallon will stay at intermediate hurling standard – or maybe even junior level – for as long as she continues to make linguistic errors such as this one last night: [things] ‘that we have underwent’. Warm up the sub!

  • Old Mortality

    That would probably earn her brownie points in SF. Musn’t forget to say ‘dun’ rather than ‘did’ as well and call the place Stor-mount.

  • Lionel Hutz

    So you think they should have argued that RHI should have stayed in the Public Accounts Committee?

    I don’t know. There is merit in showing that the accounting mechanisms work. And i think to be fair to UUP, Mike Nesbitt argued that it should for a while. At the same time, on the face of the scandal…I think it just went beyond the PACs competence.

    And we have seen in the past that Ministers have just brushed off damming committee findings…..see Red Sky

  • mickfealty

    Yes. Indeed, the PAC has already uncovered a lot of what the public inquiry will find out in public session, although some of the new evidence has come to light because of the visibility of the controversy.

    I don’t buy the pessimistic view of its capacity. It’s only ever as good as the inputs of its members. We need politicians who can validate the institutions by putting them to proper use in persuit of the public interest.

  • mickfealty

    I heard that too. But I’ll give her a bye on that, given the rest of the content. Besides she’s up against Caral for a seat whose fluent speaker in Belfast.

  • file

    … and neither of them are pushing for a place on the senior hurling team.

  • Katyusha

    Stor-mount?
    Never heard the place mentioned outside of Belfast, mate.

  • mickfealty

    One of them is about to get dropped from the intermediates I reckon.

  • file

    No great loss if she is. Two strikes and you’re out, to change sports (Casement and the disappearnace of a complete ministry, in my book).

  • Devil Eire

    …neither of them is pushing for a place…

    Stones, glasshouses and all that. And as for

    ..whose fluent speaker in Belfast.

    well, I’m not sure what dialect that is.

  • Jollyraj

    Indeed. What is it with the Shinners and their weird inabilty to grasp simple English grammar. One wonders whether they also mangle the few phrases they can cobble together in Irish. I’ve heard Gerry’s grasp of it referred to as ‘prison Irish’. Any of you Irish speakers out there know how to say ‘I done it’ in Irish?

  • Hugh Davison

    Sneering at the natives, are we?

  • file

    Interesting point, Devil, and a welcome reminder of the complexities of number agreement. Depends which style I am using here though, formal written or informal spoken?
    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/questions-and-negative-sentences/neither-neither-nor-and-not-either
    … and to ‘correct’ whose fluent speaker in Belfast to ‘who is a fluent speaker of Belfast’ would somewhat lose the humour of Mick’s reference to the peculiar idiolect of Iníon Ní Chúilín surely?
    By the way, how do you do italic font in Slugger posts please?

  • file

    Níor rinne mé é … is a close approximation to the grammar errors in I dun it.

  • Jollyraj

    Thank you, File 🙂

    Not sure what it sounds like – actually looks like it sounds quite nice

  • file

    Pronounce like this: “Near rin uh may ay”. It actually means ‘I didn’t done it’ but has the required mirror of the grammatical error of the English ‘I done it’.
    Here, again, we have the fruits of our so-called great education system:
    ‘I done that when he had went up to the window.” As for the mispronunciation of the past tense of ‘to eat’, don’t start me. (It rhymes with ‘bet’ but should rhyme with ‘hate’.)

  • On the fence!

    Aye, get this election over, bring back Blair and Ahearn, and you’ve just turned the clock back twenty odd years.

    Looks like we spent all that time not actually going anywhere!

  • mickfealty

    That was still in line SF demands for a non public inquiry (i.e., one that could be doctored in house). Mallon’s approach is the right one. Welcome the change for the good, point out that this is what her party (and indeed all three opposition parties) had advocated from the beginning, and that all this grandstanding had cost the tax payer and endangered businesses.

    If there’s any natural justice, both the DUP and Sinn Fein as the government parties should ship damage for this so it is important to flag the joint enterprise nature of the ‘crime’, so to speak. This was a blatant attempt by SF to jump the ship and blame their partners, when in fact their jumping ship helped escalate the problem and prevent it getting fixed in a more timely fashion.

    Next may come the excuses for not getting the government back up again. The opposition will now need a strategy for calling that out as a self serving “party first, people second” tactic to avoid future damage as SF go into a tricky phase two of their advance in the Republic. That will need more of the calm clear messaging of the above.

    Frankly there is no point in any opposition party if they are not hungry for power. The only way to do that is focus on policy and find ways to upgrade its importance to the demos.

  • Devil Eire

    OM: Musn’t forget to say ‘dun’ rather than ‘did’ as well and call the place Stor-mount.

    And of course we mustn’t forget to write “musn’t”.

  • Devil Eire

    Depends which style I am using here though, formal written or informal spoken?

    Whichever gets you out of trouble, I suppose. Informal written? I’m sure you’ll accord others the same latitude you give yourself 😉

    …and to ‘correct’ whose fluent speaker in Belfast to ‘who is a fluent speaker of Belfast’ would somewhat lose the humour of Mick’s reference to the peculiar idiolect of Iníon Ní Chúilín surely?

    That would be unintended humour on Mick’s part; and I think you mean Iníon Í (or Uí) Chuilín.

    By the way, how do you do italic font in Slugger posts please?

    Some basic HTML markup tags are allowed in Disqus comments (see here, for example).

  • file

    Go raibh maith agat maidir leis an eolas ar chló iodálach. Agus maidir le Iníon Ní/Uí/Nic/Mhic … tá mé go hiomlan measctha suas maidir le mianta na mban sa chás seo: cuid acu, cuireann siad i gcoinne leithéid Uí/Mhic srl mar cuireann sin in iúl – tríd an ginideach – gur le duine éigin eile iad. De réir na seanrialacha, níl ‘Iníon’ fiú le húsáid ach do mhná nach bhfuil pósta.

    I never look on advice about language use as ‘being in trouble’; I am always willing to learn and do not mind advice or correction.

  • Devil Eire

    Go raibh maith agat maidir leis an eolas ar chló iodálach.

    You’re welcome.

    Agus maidir le Iníon Ní/Uí/Nic/Mhic …

    The point though is that, since “Ní” is a contraction of “Iníon Í” or “Iníon Uí”, “Iníon Ní” is tautological.

  • file

    tell it to the feminists! They are the ones who want to use ‘Iníon’ as an Irish equivalent of Ms.