09 Jan

A Wry Eye – Time for a political media blackout?

THERE is nothing more satisfying for a politician than scheming and politicking to gain advantage. With the current Renewable Heat Incentive controversy dominating the agenda in Northern Ireland, there is ample opportunity for them to indulge themselves in this way.

The mere fact that the ‘party lines’ must be obeyed gets them all excited at the prospect of having a party line at all.

The seriousness of the situation, however, has descended into something akin to farce – the Facebook post by the First Minister of a guinea pig wearing heart shaped glasses and the increasingly indignant response from the opposition would be comedic in any other circumstances.

Even the news story about a low-flying swan causing a power cut in Fermanagh seemed light-hearted in comparison.

However, we have come up with a solution. Okay, that seems unlikely, but over several cups of coffee and a plethora of post-it notes on the office walls we think we’ve cracked it.

Politicians of all ilk love to see and hear themselves on the goggle box and the wireless. They can’t help themselves; after all, they’ve been elected and must, therefore, share their views and opinions!

For 48 hours there should be a complete media and social media black-out on coverage of RHI, investigations and all statements from MLAs.

They can then be herded into a darkened room, given copious amounts of tea and told they’ll not be let out until some sort of solution is arrived at.

Then, instead of parties making their own statements, a randomly selected member of the public will make the announcement – preferably someone with a soothing presence who will assure us all “that everything is going to be fine”. Daniel O’Donnell rather than Liam Neeson, perhaps?

Or Mr. Neeson could call all the MLAs and recite his famous line from ‘Taken’…

What is real right now is that there is a real crisis unfolding while RHI is playing out. With cancer waiting times still unacceptably long, A&E units under strain, and teachers striking, the stakes relating to a budget are getting increasingly high.

It is enough to make anyone despair, but being cheery souls we still believe that work will be undertaken and the process of government will continue. For example, plans to outlaw smoking in cars with under-18s on board are out for consultation.

When not pre-occupied with point scoring, MLAs can do some things that are actually useful.

With public confidence in the Assembly at the proverbial all-time low, there is a real need for the ‘Cash For Ash’ issue to be resolved – to prove to the populace that our institutions can be a force for good.

Failure to do so could result in a disastrously low turnout at the next Assembly election, which may not be far off.