HAVE you noticed everyone smiling, giggling and even laughing around the corridors and committee rooms of Parliament Buildings? No? That’s strange because the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has once again deemed Northern Ireland to be the happiest place in the UK.
Yes, we’re happy!
Among the data sets they use to determine the happiness is ‘social capital’, which includes how good people are at bonding and bridging differences. For those of us who spend time listening to the verbal fights, jousting during debates and MLAs of all shades rowing on radio and TV, you could wonder how the ONS ever came to the conclusion that we are ‘happy’.
We have a theory – a bubble theory. While MLAs do debate serious matters, they introduce and scrutinise legislation, hold departmental errors to account and meet constituents in their offices, they do so without really seeing what is happening on a daily basis.
Northern Ireland has a population of around 1.8m people. Those tuning in to politics shows and news on radio and TV are a couple of hundred thousand for each channel. Many of those who listen and watch do so many times each week (such is the sad, benighted life of a politics junkie).
The rest of the population? They go out to work, go out, have a pint, go to church and generally only engage in political shenanigans during election time.
In other words, one conclusion we can draw from the ONS study is that the less we hear about politics the happier we are. That is a shame.
Why? Because we are missing some important matters. For example, the investigation into over-spending in a renewables scheme, the impact of Brexit, business crime and the introduction of online Blue Badge applications for disabled drivers.
These are matters that affect our lives. Like the debate this week on the impact of pensions changes on woman, as well as rural bank closures and changes in licensing laws.
For those of us involved in politics and work with politicians we all need a sense of perspective.
Last week, on Friday, the European Space Agency Rosetta mission touched down on Comet 67P, 713 million kilometres from Earth, after a journey of more than 7.9 billion kilometres, matching the comet speed of 14.3 kilometres per second for a gentle touchdown at walking pace after years of gathering information and data that will change how we look at the solar system we live in.
Maybe, if we actually have a sense of perspective politicians will be able to join in with the rest of us and be happy. C’mon MLAs, smile, enjoy life and just get along. Please.