A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse. It’s a kind description of Stormont’s expenses regime.
Incidentally, should we give up calling the place by its official name? So many callers to the Nolan Show, for instance, call it “Stormount” that last Wednesday Mr Nolan also gave up and joined them, aided and abetted by at least one MLA.
While we’re at it, should we also settle for “Westminister” instead of its correct name? Aren’t most place names pronounced according to popular usage?
Sorry, that’s a digression. Let’s get back to expenses.
We could think of it as quantitative easing. It’s “money from America,” so to speak. It’s pump priming. The cash may be trousered by community organisations, research companies, landlords, individuals and MLAs’ families but it won’t stay in their pockets. Some of it has to be spent. It’s not an efficient mechanism but some of it will ‘trickle down’ to the rest of us.
Do you remember “Unemployment Relief Schemes”? You do? You must be around my age. They were on the go in the 50s and 60s. They came from the Keynesian notion that it would be better to pay people to dig holes and fill them in again than to leave them on the dole. Councils employed unqualified men to fix pavements, improve roads and so on. Similar schemes have appeared many times since then.
We could think of Stormont as an unemployment relief scheme. Instead of cutting the number of MLAs from 108 to 90, we could increase their number. It’d be a great plan as no education is necessary to be an MLA. Of course, there has to be some limit but beyond that everyone who’s still unemployed could become a researcher, a press officer, a secretary or whatever. MLAs employ staff fitting 84 job descriptions so there’s something for everyone. It would be Keynesian economics taken to its logical conclusion.
And, why build a new police training centre? Training could be held in Ross Hussey MLA’s office in Omagh. It’s big enough. As he says himself it’s great for role-playing and that’s an important part of police training.
Yes, I’m being facetious. It’s not big and it’s not clever.
Of course, a lax expenses regime may have been the price of peace. Every major change in history has to be paid for. Take, for instance, the Act of Union that brought Grattan’s Parliament in Dublin to an end in 1800. Vested interests had to be bought off. That’s always the way.
We understand that. The only problem is that buying people off can’t go on indefinitely. At some stage the tap has to be turned off.
Unfortunately the BBC Spotlight revelations came just when people were more disillusioned with Stormont than ever before. Gregory’s antics and Gerry’s unguarded answer have done damage. By playing to their most unthinking supporters politicians may secure their own futures but it’s often at the expense of the greater good.
On top of all that, the Secretary of State finally admitted that the Stormont talks had only a slim chance of success. Before that, she’d been jollying us all along.
Where do we go from here? I don’t know. Does anyone?