Who actually is in charge of Covid 19 measures in Northern Ireland? Just asking. The mainstream media don’t seem that interested. Health is devolved but national emergencies are reserved to Westminster. Arlene Foster looks ahead to closing schools for 16 weeks (Why hit on 16? Why not 20 or 25? Are contingency plans for education ready to roll out? ) Michelle O’Neill with her reflexive approach to crisis thinks they should follow Dublin’s example and be closed already. Does this mean the Executive is back in deadlock over the biggest crisis since the Troubles? Or are we back to solo runs by different minsters? Does it even matter what they think or say?
The Armagh summit yielded no clear answers. Will NI 70s go into quarantine in a few week’s time along with their GB ( or is it English only) counterparts? Will their southern counterparts still hang loose? The four chief medical officers of the UK are said to be working in lockstep (not lockdown!). There is no way Northern Ireland can cope without massive assistance from the mobilised British state and economy and without close coordination with the Republic and indeed internationally. We need lots more genuine information. Starting clearly with who’s unambiguously in charge. This is no time for the usual cynicism and venting. We need to trust those in charge whoever they are.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London