I generally view The View (BBC TV) a day after it’s aired. While Hearts and Minds went out in the early evening, The View has been exiled to the post-10.00 pm wilderness, so I usually tape it. Anyway, it was yesterday before I got to hear that businessman on the programme, with his take on the Stormont Executive. It was, to put it mildly, damning. The man said he just got on with his business, doing what he could, ignoring the politicians who for him were an irrelevance, spending their time arguing over the past and offering nothing to the present or future.
He was impressive in his understated sincerity and to some extent I found myself agreeing with him. Martin McGuinness likes to recall the first time he met with Ian Paisley in Stormont, as First and Deputy First Minister respectively, and how Paisley said “You know, we can do a lot better ourselves than these British ministers coming over here”. But as that businessman sees it, they either can’t or aren’t doing better.
It may be because it was the area I was involved with during my working life, but education seems the one area where the Stormont Executive has made a radical move, with the abolition of the 11+. But even that consists in catching up with what happened in Britain over 50 years ago; and should you ignore that awkward fact, you’re still faced with the DUP and the UUP (I’m not really sure what the SDLP position is) condemning the move with some intensity. And of course there's free travel for the oldies, which Peter Robinson I think claims as his achievement, but again, they've had that south of the border since the days of Charlie Haughey.
Maybe there have been striking advances in other areas but I can’t think what they are. Doesn't mean they aren’t happening, but you’d think the Minister responsible and his/her party would be trumpeting any achievements from the rooftops. As for the progress made by the cross-border bodies, I'm frankly underwhelmed.
And yet, despite all that, I'm still an admirer of devolution. Maybe it’s like democracy itself: devolved government is the worst of all systems, except for everything else.