20 Mar

A Wry Eye – Uncertain times ahead

THE talks aimed at setting up a new Executive have featured a lot of familiar issues, including equality, legacy and respect. Meanwhile, beyond the insular confines of negotiations, life continues apace.

One wonders, having backed themselves into a pretty sticky situation, if our parties could benefit from a reality check.

Stoking themselves and their supporters up into a faux frenzy has had the effect that, come the deadline, any compromise will have to be dressed appropriately to be palatable.

One can imagine that thoughts have already turned to the prospect of another election, or, worse still, Direct Rule.

In the meantime, the machinery of government is paralysed. Departments are rudderless but must still press on with icebergs dead ahead. The biggest iceberg is, of course, the budget.  You remember that thing that keeps the vital cash flowing to frontline services?

You may have recently availed of some of those frontline services. Dropped your kids off to school? Been to A&E? Visited your parent in hospital after an operation? Hopped on a bus or train? Collected your teenager from youth club? Been to a swimming pool for some exercise? Visited your GP for a check-up?

As the political parties prepare for their latest session in front of the microphones, officials in the Department of Finance are counting down the days with dread.

That is because, if no agreement is reached by the end of March, the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance will have to set an emergency budget to “tide us over” until such times as there is an Executive in place to agree a proper one.

That’s not a situation anyone will want.

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