Jude Collins

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Over to us

Lately there’s been a lot of hand-throwing-in-the-air and exasperated sighing from commentators and writers-to-the-paper about the incompetence of local politicians. ‘They’re a bunch of no-hopers – couldn’t run a sweety-shop!’ is the general consensus. You hear phone-in contributors saying the sooner they go back to direct rule from London, the better.

I think this is a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease. It’s certainly the case from a nationalist perspective that the people in Stormont haven’t achieved an awful lot. Some would say they’ve made things worse, with the 11+ confusion. But that’s to focus on the difficulties we face and to forget the bigger picture. Which is? That if we have self-respect, there’s no choice but to opt for local rule.

Take the man next door. He’s been a successful businessman, his place is always meticulously tidy, his garden is a wonder of proportion and productivity. I’ll bet if I could get a look at his bank balance, in terms of income and expenditure, it’d show as highly commendable. The truth is, he’s almost certainly a better organizer and runner of things than I am. The way he runs his home puts the way I run mine to shame. If he were to move in here tomorrow and start organising my affairs, he’d almost certainly make a better fist of it than I do.

So why don’t I let him? Because I’m grown-up, and for better or worse, grown-up people run their own affairs. It's not a question of which of us could do the job better; it’s a question of whose place it is to do the job. It’s my house, so be that for great or ghastly, it’s my job to run it.

Ditto our affairs here. There is of course a temptation to hand everything over to someone else, leave them to wrestle with the knotty difficulties that keep turning up. The years of direct rule have reinforced that kind of thinking: it was a lot easier to call Patrick Mayhew a fat condescending prat while at the same time allowing him to get on with running the place.

But that’s over and like it or lump it, it’s our job to make decisions for ourselves. We’re not talking easy or hard. We’re talking what do big people do. What they do is, they run their own houses and they run their own country. And even if it were worse than the job the man door might do, it’d still be better.

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