29 Aug

A Wry Eye – Listen to the Sound of Nothing

Listen closely. Listen very closely and you’ll hear the distinct sound of nothing happening. Amidst the sound and bluster of politicians making statements you’ll hear nothing. No talks, no progress and a distinct absence of anything resembling hope.

But in this void things are happening – for, as any scientist will tell you, nature abhors a vacuum. In this vacuum of political nothingness, cuts are made, services are strained and decisions are taken by civil servants without ministerial oversight.

Of course, those outside of the political maelstrom get on with their lives, head to work, ponder over examination results, and watch ‘reality’ TV shows to avoid reality.

The Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, by refusing to say when talks will resume, hasn’t helped mask the sound of nothing. Equally, by saying he would provide further information ‘in his own way’ about the next steps in the talks he left everyone scratching their heads as to what exactly he meant.

With no involvement from the Cabinet, Chancellor or the PM, Mr Brokenshire has been left with a fraught and thankless task. He is observing political parties who have painted themselves into opposing corners, staring across the room at each other, never daring to tread upon the drying paint lest their footsteps be spotted.

The SoS stated the obvious – that urgent progress is needed – just as we are about to enter September with the deafening sound of nothing reaching its crescendo.

There must come a time when instead of railing against absence of anything, they’ll pause for a moment, consider the ramifications of the lack of an Executive and decide to work together.

However, that time is not yet upon us. Parties and party insiders are so caught up in their own structures and their own fears of appearing to compromise, that despite their efforts before the cameras there is a distinct impression of rabbits caught in headlights.

But we think that we have found out why there has been no progress over the summer. School holidays. Whether it be children or grandchildren MLAs have been in enforced captivity keeping the wee ones amused for eight weeks. Every parent knows that by week three of the school holidays it is a war of attrition between adults and children. In this environment, any time normally set aside for political strategy is swallowed up by peacekeeping duties.

With the school gates about to open one senses that politicians will stampede to Stormont Castle pleading with each other to get back around the Executive table. If only so that they can escape to a safe sanctuary where only adults disagree, rather than squabbling siblings.

There is no rational way that children can be appeased, but perhaps there is a way a disgruntled populace can be appeased. This would require politicians opening their mouths and actually saying something sensible.