WELL last week was interesting for all the usual reasons in Norn Iron politics.
There was the twice yearly North South Ministerial Council meeting. There was the abortion issue in the headlines again. There were more questions about prisons. There was controversy over funding groups. There were yet more discussions about inquiries into the ‘past’. And, that is only scratching the surface.
Of course, work still goes on amidst the rows and Brexit anxiety. Tomorrow there will be a plenary session of the Assembly, with questions, consent motions, a debate on energy security and a call for a review of the plethora of local quangos.
That’s not to even mention the committee business.
To state what many might miss, your average MLA is pretty busy beyond appearing on TV and radio. Not that you’d think that given the type of coverage and “he said, she said, they said” culture.
Last week the Oxford English dictionary named its Word Of The Year 2016 as ‘post-truth’.
It is defined as: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.
Its 2,000% increase in usage has been attributed to the EU vote and the Trump election. However, it could have been coined especially for Northern Ireland.
In an at times febrile environment around elections, objective facts are really of no relevance. With the myopia of clear vision, personal beliefs, to coin a phrase, trump facts.
Yes, it’s an old argument that the appeals to vote to “keep the other side out”, but it is now verging on the ridiculous.
Take Brexit for example. We all know that Arlene and Martin are not going to agree about anything, yet the statistical data, economic indicators, and other information that will flow over the coming two plus years are not going to sway anyone who is in the Sinn Féin or DUP camps.
How many people are really going to study the mountain of information swilling around? We have to, but that’s our job.
But, if you do, as we will be doing, be very aware of ‘fake news’. Yep, apparently over the year there has been a lot of that going on the Tinterweb. Just make up a story, or Photoshop a picture and let it loose in the wilds of the online world.
We pledge over the coming months to deliver as many ‘truths’ as possible. We pledge to root out the fake political stories, with one caveat. No-one can be truly objective, but we can all try to base subjectivity on the facts.
Now if all our MLAs were to try that, Northern Ireland might catch a wee breath and move beyond the post-truth era into one were the biased myopia gives way to clear vision. Okay, we’re all dreamers and hippies until the IV dose of coffee kicks in and cynicism returns!