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Why Unionism should hand McGuinness the position of First Minister…

By St Etienne

“Unionism’s great challenge” has now apparently been reduced to keeping a Shinner out of the perceived top job in local politics. In truth, not a great strategy. We need to get over it.

Contrary to the most popularly understood of peace-processing narratives (the one that’s painted with the broadest brush), the majority of NI is not transitioning from some kind of guerrilla warfighting capability and into politics. That’s only the people some of us choose to elect. How people like McGuinness can be a role model/leader for NI is any sane person’s guess. But at present neither do we have a sane solution.

From the initial kite flying of voluntary coalition/opposition/normal politics, it is clear there is a deepset paranoia among Irish nationalists that unionists fundamentally do not want to share power.  And crucially, not from a “we don’t like murderers” principled standpoint but from a “they don’t want a Catholic about the place” perspective.  Ultimately this is wrong, but like it or not that is the perception (perhaps driven largely for reasons of political capital as much as community mistrust). Action is required to change it.

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Filed under: general election, power sharing, UUP

Calling all candidates…

Keith Belfast has got a decent project running. He’s attempting to catalogue all the social media tools employed by candidates at the upcoming election (just like he did for the Euros).

But it’s a big job to get info on every general election candidate – so he needs help. Lots of help. Check out his post and contribute (the form is here).

Being able to access a comprehensive directory of this type should make it easier to bring candidate voter together and to promote engagement. Looks like a great idea…

Filed under: elections

Best of the Web

I’ve started writing a column in the News Letter called ‘Best of the Web‘ – it’s simply on politics around the blogs in NI. The first is in today’s edition, and I’ve reproduced it below with all the links etc…

By Geoff McGimpsey

Arguably, you can blame Barack Obama for many things. Failing to be the unifying figure he pledged to be; failing to close Guantanamo within 12 months; failing to bring the public with him on health reform. You can also blame him for jolting political parties everywhere into greater use of social media (blogs, twitter, facebook, myspace etc).

Sure, before Obama, Northern Ireland had a lively fraternity of political geeks sharing information and gossip online. But after Obama, this underground activity has moved more and more into the mainstream. Hence this column!

With more bloggers and active consumers (check out the huge amount of nominations at this year’s Irish Blog Awards http://awards.ie/blogawards), and more political parties and individual politicians engaging more directly and personally, the web is an interesting place to be. And it’ll get more interesting the closer we get to elections. So I’m simply going to review what’s been happening on the blogs over the past week or so.

So here goes.

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Filed under: Best of the Web

NI’s media has as much to prove as its politicians…

By St Etienne

Having a read through of various responses to the Barnett report (all Unionist parties conspicuous by their lack of opinion btw). A disparate range of issues seemed to be targeting various interest groups.

One report caught the eye – from a young entrepreneur in the form of Liam McGarry, he of McGarryConsult and Wee Man Studios – one of these new fangled iPhone gaming startups.

Anyway, a notable section to take in:

NI Political & Media Leadership

  • NI has 11 Government Departments, 26 Councils and over 80 Quangos
  • NI Government has 92 press officers and more advisors than the White House
  • NI has more community, voluntary, advocacy NGOs per capita than anywhere else in the World

Getting anything done within NI often requires significant political and political skills matched by bucket loads of persuasion and patience. Our government central and locally are devised not on economic or governance principles but on political lines. The recent employment of not one but four victim’s commissioners on full pay provides open evidence of political expediency winning over economic efficiency.

Our politicians and departments are well versed in generating strategies, grand visions and using buzzwords but behind the gloss – what are the leading political parties’ economic policies? How do they suggest we improve our productivity and economic sustainability?

The unwillingness to make hard choices over water rates (revenues £400 – £900m) haunt us now that £370m needs to be found, providing further evidence of playing popular politics over unpopular budget balancing. Is anyone willing to bet that we will get a single Department of the Economy?

Which politicians can ideologically or publicly support wealth creation (e.g. serial entrepreneurs) in the few as opposed to short-term mass job creation (with limited long term prospects)? Can our politicians really win over conglomerates willing to move where the labour cost, tax incentive, grant inducing host country wind takes them?

What of our media – surely they will hold NI to account on economics? Yet with more press officers (ex-journalists?) than existing journalists and with many hacks looking towards the future (newspaper industry trends v potential lucrative govt press officer post plus pension) who will stick their head above the parapet?

But what of editors, publishers and printers surely they will push the economic argument… given the massive public advertising (jobs, notices, adverts) and lucrative publishing (how many updates, newsletters or annual reports are not on full colour gloss), who with one eye on their very own balance sheet won’t pick personal economics over national economics every time?
Liam McGarry, McGarryConsult opinion on Barnett Report

The limited insight I have into the world of the NI political hack has given me few ideas on how their obsession with towing the NIO thought-stream has come about. In the Belfast Telegraph’s case it is generally assumed they wish to keep a tight hold of civil servant job adverts and the like, when in reality they are an expensive luxury that is already accommodated by catering to the two tribes’ News Letter and Irish News.

The local BBC, who have come under scrutiny recently from all sides for their handling of the Adams scandal vis-à-vis “Irisgate” (maybe it’s the rotten secular core speaking here, but was it really that big a deal?) – and that’s not counting the rumours circulating regarding a politically imposed blackout on Beeb reporters going after Adams stories – are in a similar position. But they don’t get advertising so apart from ‘for the cause’, what gives? I’ll repeat the most prescient line above for effect:

with many hacks looking towards the future (Newspaper industry trends v potential lucrative govt press officer post plus pension) who will stick their head above the parapet?

In the cosy world of local politics/media, it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to agree with this thinking. Even those allegedly impartial observers are funded by the taxpayer, as well as more forthright abominations. It is difficult to ascertain who is on the take and who is ‘republican or otherwise, has his or her part to play’.

What is certain is no matter how much faux lamenting our hacks do over that predictably drawn out charade at Hillsborough, they themselves have just as much to prove as the politicians to the Northern Irish public.

Filed under: devolution, power sharing, Robinson affair

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