05 Dec

A Wry Eye – Uncertainty ahead?

WHEN it comes down to it, according to the majority of the Northern Ireland Executive, the economy is key to helping restore the local coffers in every sense.

However, the best laid plans can come unstuck and thrown askew. And, this week the doomsayers are once again gathering.

Economists from Ulster University have gathered their cowls around them, cast the runes and read the entrails of slaughtered goats and, apart from warning about the Ides of March, have a stern warning about growth.

Their conclusion is that the economic growth in Northern Ireland will stutter down from this year’s projected 2% to a measly 1% in 2017 and 2018. And, what is to blame for these paltry growth figures? Apparently it is uncertainty.

Brexit and President Elect Trump have upset the applecart (apologies to all the orchard owners in Co. Armagh), as the mantra goes that business hates uncertainty.

With inflation projected to rise to more than 3% in the same period MLAs and Invest NI may just yell “yikes” at this news. But fear not, sure once we cut corporate tax everything will be okay, right?

Not so the case for Norn Iron and the BBC. Why, oh why doesn’t Auntie Beeb like NI? After the BBC shortlisting panel for Sports Personality of the Year excluded world boxing champ Carl Frampton from the list, all hell broke loose.

Priorities such as paramilitary activity in County Antrim, crises in ambulance response times, teachers striking over pay were all thrust aside as the First Minister spoke about it in the Assembly and Nigel Dodds raised it in the House of Commons.

They, like all the other politicians, were wise to row in behind Frampton and his manager, Barry McGuigan, lest they offer to go six rounds with them.

Once the dust had settled, the paramilitary row in Carrickfergus was thrust into the political spotlight as the week ended. While Sunday tabloids have been splashing on this for months it only attracted the attention of the commentariat once the cost of the policing operation became apparent.

While the ins and outs of the police approach may be dissected for days to come, it is apparent that once the issue of money rose there was sudden interest in the feud.

With the growth of the economy, surely the funds can be found for the PSNI to make sure that they can sort it all out. Oh, wait a minute – the officers of the law were promised extra cash five months ago.

But promises are just words. Just like the words contained in the report on abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. Last week the Minister for Justice said the report was never intended to be published. That came as quite a surprise to many!

The Executive have shared a copy between themselves but the promise now seems to have shifted from yes for all to see to no-one will see it. Is it just us, or is it a bit strange to deny the public and our legislators access to the information, as we debate the rights and wrongs of introducing legislation on this important subject.

It’s illogical, if you forget we all live in Northern Ireland where logic has to be declared and handed in once you arrive at the airport. If there is a ‘hard border’ after Brexit we anticipate a healthy black market trade to smuggle logic in!

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