I spent Monday afternoon and early evening watching news and social media, and doing a bit of ranting. Then I stepped away from the screens and read my book. But the family, going to beds, didn’t turn off the TV, the news came on… Cue lots of fuming and little sleeping.
We’re having a ‘crisis’. The astonishing chaos, unwillingness to take responsibilty and arrogance at the heart of our political system was laid bare before Christmas. I was agog as I watched our First Minister react appalingly to claims about incompetence made by her former friend and colleague. A ‘car crash TV’ / ‘fetch the popcorn’ current affairs programme.
Arlene Foster was the Minister who oversaw the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive. Largely copied from England, the key difference was that there was no upper limit to the amount to be paid out. Since people are being encouraged to use renewable fuel by being reimbursed £1.60 for every £1 spent, the more they spend, the more they will earn. Heating empty sheds can make for a great income, costing the UK approx £1 BILLION over the next 20 years. Ah, sure never mind, £600 million of that is coming from GB, NI only has to spend £400million. Cash for ash indeed.
A series of unconnected facts:
The First Minister is from Co Fermanagh.
The largest supplier of renewable wood pellets is from Co Fermanagh.
No member of the First Minister’s immediate family is benefiting from this scheme.
There was a fire in a shed in Fermanagh this week. It contained 8 of the biomass boilers.
The green area on this spoof map from@LADFLEG equates to Co Fermanagh.
It was suggested that Arlene step aside for a while so there could be an inquiry. No. No. And, again no. People concerned about competence and possible corruption were accused of misogyny. By a political party known to ‘Moo’ at women politicians. One of the party said, in support, that the First Minister was doing a good job, considering her domestic responsibilites. There is plenty of misogyny in local politics, most of it from the First Minister’s own party. The public are not aware of any attempts she’s ever made to challenge it.
Due to the complexities of our political system, the First Minister holds position along with the the leader of the second largest party. It’s a cross community post. Two people. Equal authority. One can’t act without the other. When Arlene tried to speak to the Assembly as First Minister without the support of the ‘deputy’, on the RHI scheme, all the MLAs of every other party left the chamber. She was speaking without authority and up with it they would not put.
Nothing calmed down during the holiday recess, and local politics hit the fan on Monday when the deputy First Minister resigned, citing the RHI mess, other areas of disagreement and ‘deep seated arrogance’ of the largest party.. His party refused to nominate a successor. Unless a whole lot gets resolved in the next few days, we’re heading for another election. Joy untold.
Countering claims of arrogance and incompetence, Arlene released a video in the style of the Queen’s speech, talking to
her subjects the voters in front of a large fireplace. Cash for ash being flaunted. This was not a mis-step from a PR junior, but a clear statement of what she feels to be important. Arlene. Arlene’s mates. Everybody else can go and jump. She also said that any election would be ‘brutal’, setting exactly that tone. She doesn’t care. She doesn’t care what anybody thinks if they’re not a natural DUP voter. She speaks only to those she thinks she knows. The rest of us are irrelevant or a block to the return of majority unionist rule in the region. There is no desire to explore commonalities, or to consider notions of good governance, leadership or equality to be desirable.
I read an article recently, which I now can’t find to re read/ consider/ credit, about the suggestion that we replace all our politicians by other members of the public. No parties, no elections, but selected members of the public, a bit like jury duty. A decent salary (but no expenses) for 5 years while you develop policies which benefit the public of the area governed. In this muddle, I could be convinced.
I want politics to be about community building, society, working together for the good of us all. Why does that make me feel like a naive fool?