23 Jan

A Wry Eye – Resigned to change

THE more things change the more they stay the same, or so they say. Here in Northern Ireland we have always adhered to that adage, but for once in a long time we are observing real change.

Last week we witnessed a slew of resignations, from Special Advisers through to the momentous, if expected, announcement from Martin McGuinness that he will not be standing for re-election.

And, who knows what the investigation into the Renewable Heat Initiative will produce, whatever form it takes. We do know that it will produce plenty of hot air ahead of the election on March 2nd, and for a period of time afterwards.

What is evident from lampposts across NI is that election poster teams have got to work quickly. Were printers working overtime? Or are our political parties being truly environmentally friendly and recycling posters from last May’s poll?

It is, however, a troubling time. The distance between the parties has become such that astrophysicists are now using it to calibrate new deep space telescopes.

Even last year’s US election campaign seems tame in comparison to what is widely anticipated to be a “brutal” and attritional battle for first preferences in our upcoming election.

With a reduction in the number of Assembly seats up for grabs, do expect more than the usual grovelling on the doorsteps as prospective MLAs beg on their knees for even a fourth preference in the hope of scraping in.

Apart from the old-hands who have been there for what seems forever, it does seem a somewhat vain quest for a place on the plush Assembly benches, given that any new Assembly will have a firm ‘use by’ date to create a new Executive.

There are two other people on their knees. The Permanent Secretary at the Department of Finance doesn’t want to have to allocate budgets. Prayers are being whispered to the patron saints of accountants and actuaries.

The other man offering prayers to all known deities, supplicating himself before all altars, and checking if Mars is in retrograde in Aquarius, is the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire.

Way back last year when Theresa May gave him the job, Mr Brokenshire must have thought his boat had come in. Turn up for a few photocalls, fend off the odd awkward questions about the past and in return he got a pay rise, a nice wee place to hang-out in Hillsborough and a Cabinet seat where he can listen in to ‘big boy’ politics.

Now, as the election clock counts down, he is faced with the prospect of running Northern Ireland – should the winners of the election fail to form a new government after polling day.

You see, even as we witness change, the more things are the same. To paraphrase a popular saying: “That’s another fine mess you lot got us into…”