20 Dec

A Wry Eye – What is the public and why isn’t it confident?

SOMETIMES it is really easy to hate journalists. The sleazy, snooping, nosey type who poke their noses in other people’s affairs – you know the type, don’t you? Pictures of celebrities, scandals involving footballers…
And, then there’s the other type. That’s the type that exposes the public to the inner workings of government, local, national and otherwise. If not for them we’d all live in blissful ignorance.

With the interfering ways these reporters have set themselves up to poke into all sorts of “scandals”.

And now the alleged confidence of the so-called public has been lost. Without an election it is pretty hard to speak for all the public in Northern Ireland but that has never really been an issue on the telly or the radio, let alone the newspapers.

The latest of the, by now regular, scandals ‘heating’ up in Northern Ireland is surrounding the rights, wrongs – and more – of the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI).

For those who have been living in a cave with no internet access over the past week, this is a scheme that allowed people and businesses to switch from fossil fuels to a green, clean energy source. However, it seems that wittingly or unwittingly some have been able to make profits from it and will be able to continue to do so.

A lot of people are now generating their own heat source by getting hot under the collar about who said what, when it was said, where was it said and why don’t someone say sooner.

In remarkable political television and radio interviews we have had an ex-minister praying, making allegations, and the First Minister making counter allegations.

We’re in ‘allegator’ infested political waters.

As an experiment we looked at the prevailing ebbs and flows in social media. Twitter and Facebook in Northern Ireland, it is fair to say have nearly collapsed under the collective weight of opinions and amateur analysis. Not to mention the best places to get Christmas bargains…

What is clear is that nothing is clear. The story behind RHI is, as those darned reporters would say, still unfolding. No matter what happens in the Assembly session, when an SDLP motion of no confidence is debated the full story may never be unveiled from the collective smog obliterating what did or didn’t happen behind closed doors.

The SDLP ran a motion of no confidence that was doomed from the start, and Arlene gave a speech to rows of empty benches. But amidst the heat of Monday’s debate, little new information came to light.

However, there is an evidence trail. Emails, letters, memos, written policy positions – all sorts of avenues by which more information could be brought into the public sphere.

But whether that information will be extracted via a public inquiry, or investigation by other bodies remains to be seen.

At least the walkout ahead of Ms Foster’s statement was a brief show of trying to entertain the masses…

But what we now know for definite is that the ‘opposition’ is cursing their luck. Yes, this story is breaking just as folks are going about preparations for the holidays, and for a few short moments the ‘public’ will be otherwise engaged rather than being enraged.

They, and various media outlets will have to rake the ashes of this story all over again in January to once again generate the heat of the alleged scandal…

© Chambré Public Affairs LLP, Scottish Provident Building, 7 Donegall Square West, Belfast, BT1 6JH.
Website by SheSaid

Public Affairs Board