Irish Republican News · November 19, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Tried and tested election formula

The elections seem to be settling down well and can now be carried out according to the tried and tested formula that has been developed here over the past 20 years or so.

On the one hand we have the election within the Unionist camp, and on the other the election within the Nationalist camp; the big question is how well Sinn Féin will fare compared to the SDLP, and also how the DUP will do against the UUP?

Once the votes are cast and counted and the results posted, the two governments will then re-open the slippery can of worms that houses the process required to set up the executive and all that goes with it at Stormont.

With all the high drama, pantomime and political buffoonery that surrounded David Trimble's last-minute, live-on-tv and syndicated across the globe refusal to do business at Hillsborough the other week, we have forgotten to inquire as to the nature of the deal that had been worked out between Sinn Féin and the Unionists.

Adams' statement, the IRA statement and the act of decommissioning were all just part of the presentation.

Inside the well-wrapped box was a package, an agreed package that was meant to form the basis of the next phase of the peace process. But what was agreed?

For example, what decisions have Sinn Féin made in relation to policing? I take it that policing was an issue raised and discussed and agreed upon during the weeks of negotiation between Sinn Féin and the Unionists.

Whatever position was reached before the collapse will be the position taken up when the Magic Roundabout starts up again.

Will Sinn Féin be taking their seats on the Policing Boards, and will they be recommending the Northern Ireland Police Service as a suitable career choice for young nationalists?

Perhaps the policing issue is linked to the devolution of justice as one of the departments at Stormont. Will the next version of the power-sharing executive have more ministers than the previous one?

If anyone ever asked me (no one ever did, by the way) I would urge Sinn Féin to take up the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure the next time around.

They probably won't because it's a very small department, with little political clout attached. It is an important department with regard to the Irish language, however, and a sympathetic, enthusiastic and able minister could use the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to change the image and substance of how we live here.

Over three or four years an energetic, confident and capable minister could utilise DCAL to drive a new agenda for the arts here, for tourism here, for raising the standard of life here.

The previous Minister for Arts, Culture and Leisure was Michael McGimpsey, and while no one would say that he was the worst minister for Arts, Culture and Leisure ever, he never came across as someone who actually wanted the job.

Arts and Culture probably weren?t his passions, although soccer seemed to be something of an interest. I think Windsor Park may have benefitted from Michael?s tenure at DCAL.

I wonder would a new Minister for Arts, Culture and Leisure be in a position to recommend the winding up of the Nrn Irn soccer team. It is so long since they scored a goal that just ending the embarrassing farce would seem to be the only honourable course of action.

This might not be a bad time to do it, actually, as the Republic are not going great either and relaunching an all-Ireland, national soccer team could be the shot in the arm needed.

They might even return to the suggestion made by this column that an all-Ireland national soccer team could share a new stadium with the national rugby team, built on the Long Kesh prison site.

But I digress. In other European countries the Department of Arts, Culture and Leisure is seen as a key position, and funded accordingly. I would put that in the political package, if I ever had the chance.

Finally, for now, may I mention the peace dividend?

This was the expected flow of funds that was to be made available after the conflict ended, money to rebuild with, money to regenerate.

It either never materialised or else I missed it, and I am sure I would have noticed a thing like that.

The new situation at Stormont, and the various agreements made, deals done and packages put together could position us on the threshold of change, yet again. Investment and support will be required and I would be interested to find out what has been agreed between the parties in this regard.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News