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Still trying to feather the nest

(Newton Emerson, Irish News)

The Independent Monitoring Commission says the UDA is "heavily engaged" in drug dealing. South Belfast UDA 'Brigadier' Jackie McDonald has a conviction for extortion. This is, of course, in no way connected to any extorting effect the tarring and feathering of an alleged drug dealer in south Belfast might have on social development minister Margaret Ritchie.

Mr McDonald claims the incident only occurred because the UDA felt unable to help when residents complained about an (unlicensed) drug dealer. But sure, that's nothing a little 'community funding' wouldn't fix.

***

Belfast DUP councillor Ruth Patterson told reporters that the tarring and feathering was "regrettable" but "I do understand the frustrations of that local community". Isn't this what Sinn Féin used to say after IRA punishment beatings? Councillor Patterson is chairperson of the south Belfast partnership board, chairperson of the south Belfast district policing partnership and chairperson of Taughmonagh community forum. So if she doesn't think the whole thing was a UDA stunt then it must be true. Mustn't it?

***

It seems equally unlikely that sectarian attacks in north Belfast, culminating in a petrol bomb attack on a young family, could have occurred without the involvement of Ardoyne's tiny band of dissident republicans. Always grateful for an opportunity to take a "both sides are as bad as each other" line, the UK media mentioned the petrol bombing and the tarring and feathering together in most reports.

But the comparison only ended up making the dissidents look even dumber, meaner and less politically astute than the UDA. How embarrassing.

***

Anyone curious to know what's going on inside the huge new MI5 building in Holywood should take a trip to the opposite side of Belfast Lough, where Newtownabbey Borough Council has helpfully installed a surprisingly powerful telescope on the lookout point at Hazelbank Park.

For a mere 20 pence, visitors get three minutes of staring right into MI5's upstairs windows. It's an intelligence gathering operation that even an Ardoyne dissident probably couldn't screw up.

***

Sinn Féin MLA Francie Brolly has issued a statement claiming that 75,000 people in Northern Ireland "speak, read, write and understand Irish" because they said so on the last census, adding that it is a "distortion" to claim more people speak Chinese than Irish because there are only 8,000 Chinese speakers. Mr Brolly's statement was headlined: "Let's dispel the myths and open up a real debate on the Irish language".

***

In a similar vein, Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff will doubtless want to apply his policing of all things partitionist to Failte Ireland, the Irish tourism development authority, which has begun running television ads with a graphic clearly showing the border. Off you go, Barry!

***

With 400 staff already on the payroll, hiring two more as special advisors to Gerry Kelly and Ian Paisley jnr will hardly dent the budget at the office of the first and deputy first ministers.

Nor is it a surprise that the DUP and Sinn Féin want these advisors when they previously criticised such appointments. This is no more hypocritical than their attitude to Stormont overall.

The real issue is a further blurring of the line between party employees and civil servants.

It is, alas, too much to hope that the DUP might object to this betrayal of British political tradition or that Sinn Féin might object to this importation of British political corruption.

***

What does Sinn Féin know about Gordon Brown's electoral intentions that the rest of us don't? Party workers have begun canvassing homes in north Belfast to check voting intentions for the next Westminster election.

Householders have also been informed that this is likely to take place in October. Is this a sign of extraordinary organisation by the Shinners, or just a sign of extraordinary desperation to avoid two electoral reversals in a row?

***

Due to a forthcoming court case by a disappointed bidder, civil servants have been ordered to keep all documents relating to the £1.5 billion Workplace 2010 private finance initiative to replace administrative buildings. But under Workplace 2010, civil servants only have two metres of shelf-space each and all additional files must be stored off-site at extra expense.

In June, the Strategic Investment Board announced that it would award another PFI contract to handle the overspill.

Where will they store the files if that contract goes to court?

September 3, 2007
________________

This article appeared first in the September 1, 2007 edition of the Irish News.


This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News



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