Sam Mcbride’s article in last Saturday’s BelTel was a broad overview of just how screwed we are. From crumbling public services to ecological collapse, it made for depressing reading:
A veteran unionist politician recently said to me: “The whole place is an absolute mess.” Another MLA is for the first time seriously considering quitting politics.
One senior business figure phoned a week ago to lament how so much of Northern Ireland is falling apart.
He likened the situation to Libya – there, two warring leaders had fought while their infrastructure collapsed, killing thousands of people when two dams burst. Here, he said that the two sides were expending their energy on tribal disputes while critical infrastructure degrades around them.
The consequences might not come while these politicians and civil servants are in power, but come they surely will. He said that spending on roads had been almost £1bn short over the last nine years – a false economy because the more roads regress, the more expensive they become to maintain.
The civil service isn’t trusted by the Treasury, the Irish government or business to spend their money, he said, because the scandalous behaviour of cash for ash had not been addressed – despite what the head of the Civil Service claims.
Having sown the wind, we’re now reaping the whirlwind.
This day next week, Northern Ireland enters a critical period of electricity insecurity. Kilroot power station’s coal-fired units shut next Saturday evening, but the gas-fired generators which were meant to replace them are nowhere near ready.
Even when those generators come online some time early next year, they will not replace the lost capacity due to a gaffe by those overseeing the electricity system.
There will be a critical gap in generating capacity which means that on calm, cold days when problems develop at other plants there could be blackouts. Yet no one seems terribly exercised by this. There’s scant evidence of it being treated as a crisis.
Last year, a refugee fleeing the Ukrainian war came here for sanctuary. But when they needed an urgent operation the waiting list was so long that they considered returning to Ukraine for treatment. Now health faces a £470m shortfall.
The Department of Education is £382m short and admits that disabled children will experience “major negative impacts”. The infrastructure budget is £167m short. Officials there say all streetlights will have to be switched off and salting of the roads will end.
The subject was also debated on last night’s The View on BBC (clip below).
How bad is it all likely to get? Are we being too fatalistic or willfully ignoring the problems?
That centenary stone is looking more like a headstone every day.
I help to manage Slugger by taking care of the site as well as running our live events. My background is in business, marketing and IT. My politics tend towards middle-of-the-road pragmatism, I am not a member of any political party. Oddly for a member of the Slugger team, I am not that interested in daily politics, preferring to write about big ideas in society. When not stuck in front of a screen, I am a parkrun Run Director.
We are reader supported. Donate to keep Slugger lit!
For over 20 years, Slugger has been an independent place for debate and new ideas. We have published over 40,000 posts and over one and a half million comments on the site. Each month we have over 70,000 readers. All this we have accomplished with only volunteers we have never had any paid staff.
Slugger does not receive any funding, and we respect our readers, so we will never run intrusive ads or sponsored posts. Instead, we are reader-supported. Help us keep Slugger independent by becoming a friend of Slugger. While we run a tight ship and no one gets paid to write, we need money to help us cover our costs.
If you like what we do, we are asking you to consider giving a monthly donation of any amount, or you can give a one-off donation. Any amount is appreciated.