Jude Collins

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Nelson puts a bit of stick about

I see my old friend Nelson McCausland is in the news again.  Nelson is a man of great moral integrity, which means he’s always alert to any case where people may be falling short of the high standards he himself observes. In case you’re raising your eyebrows at that, let me remind you that when he was Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, he wrote to the Ulster Museum telling them to display a range of Creationist and other anti-evolution material. His high standards told him that the job of the Museum was to “reflect the views of all the people in Northern Ireland”. Richard Dawkins at the time suggested that maybe the museum should also exhibit the stork theory of where babies come from - “or perhaps the museum should introduce the flat earth theory”.  

These days Nelson is getting a bit puce-faced over this  £18 million in the Housing Executive accounts that's gone missing. He says it’s “a scandal”  and the result of either “incredible incompetence” or “wilful corruption”. “This is taxpayers’ money that could have been used to build around 200 much-needed social homes”. 

I like that kind of talk. It shows a Minister with a strong ethical backbone, and when he comes on people who have done wrong, he swings his parish-priest blackthorn stick with energy and in a very public way.  In fact, Nelson is so caught up in stick-swinging he's quite forgotten that there’s a link between the Minister for Social Development and the Housing Executive. That is, the Minister is er um you know responsible for the Housing Executive. If that’s the case,  the buck stops at the top and the Minister is maybe damaging himself each time he swings that blackthorn  at the Housing Executive. 

But I’m sure there's another, more innocent explanation. It’s surely not conceivable that a Minister would yell for everyone’s attention while he hits himself over the head with a big stick. Isn't it?


  1. This would have nothing to do with the blog he did on your good self earlier this year!

  2. Ah no no no. Speaking as a kettle, I don't mind what a pot says about me.

  3. Many will defend Nelson or anyone else on the hill because of the cult of ‘the peace process’. But it’s the structure of the NI Assembly that’s really flawed. Nelson’s complete lack of interest in detail is encouraged and rewarded by the mechanics of Stormont.

    But isn't Fra McCann on the committee scrutinizing Nelson’s department? What went wrong with that scrutiny role? Doesn't every party have a representative on committees? Why aren't they doing their jobs?

    The Assembly provides for scrutiny committees staffed with all parties. In theory, these committees should provide scrutiny of legislation and departments. Parties scrutinize each other’s departments; nit-picking or scrutinizing properly, as some might call it, could capsize HMS Assembly. So they don’t rock the boat.

    If all-party scrutiny committees fail there is an important safeguard. The Assembly Ombudsman Office, the one that reports to OFMDFM, should do something about failures and corruption surely?

    Give me an example of when it last did anything at all? How does an employee serving at the pleasure of OFMDFM hold their direct line managers to account?

    Leads to some logical questions, mad I know applying logic to such an illogical thing:

    Who is really making decisions in Northern Ireland?

    The Ministers read pre-prepared statements in monotone voices for the public optics, and most of them don’t know the detail of what’s in the speech when questioned. When caught napping they wake up grumpy, but they can’t do anything because they don’t understand the departments they are trying to lead. I would probably exclude John O’Dowd from that, in fairness, he at least seems interested in the issues. But him aside, who else with portfolio looks like they give a stuff about the details? What of the scrutiny committees? Any examples of when they last scrutinized anything?

    Seen the Detail’s latest offering? Sums it up nicely!

    Government Departments giving ‘Good relations ‘priority over ‘Objective Need’ sounds mighty like the sectarianism it is supposed to stop. Why isn't Sinn Fein all over that? What all-party scrutiny committees are letting that continue?

    We need more people standing outside the process demanding accountability, these people are too comfortable in each other’s company and too uncomfortable answering basic questions about the decisions they supposedly make.

    Honestly we need more political dissidents (note I said political) and less sycophants, but it won’t happen because the one hundred sixty press officers working for the Assembly would hound naysayers into hiding.

    What it is to have unlimited resources dedicated to the suppression of dissent. Still that’s Northern Ireland, the less than original ‘hundred flowers movement’.

  4. Anon 7:43 - Thanks for your thoughts. You argue a convincing case - but if there really was that level of incompetence, wouldn't the people on the receiving end be screaming blue murder? Farmers at the Min for Agriculture, etc, etc.? I accept that people probably tread lightly in these committees but I find it hard to believe they're giving a free ride/don't understand the stuff that comes past their desk. It's a good point, though. Would you like to do a guest blog on it?

  5. Thanks for the offer Jude, probably not a good idea. Benito Mussolini said,’ Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.’

    American companies partly funded Germany’s WW2 war effort.

    Augusto Pinochet would not have existed without Margaret Thatcher and Colonia Dignidad. The influential friend you can see and the ones in the basement you can’t. It’s just business. It’s part of the parapolitics of the extreme right-wing ideology. Margaret herself would not have existed without Keith Joseph's 'Edgbaston speech'(“our human stock is threatened”).

    Is there more Corporatism today than in Benito’s time? Is there more than in Augusto Pinochet’s and Margaret Thatcher’s time?

    OFMDFM are currently in England begging David Cameron to lower corporation tax.

    How does that benefit the people they are supposed to represent?

    So do we live in a fascist state?

    According to Benito Mussolini’s definition we do, it seems to be the only model left.

    Where is the representation for people as opposed to tokenistic corporate sponsorship of political elites?