Simon says you can’t have everything west!

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA, pictured at St Athan, Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA, pictured at St Athan, Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone

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Simon says you can’t have everything. That’s Simon, the Finance Minister, by the way, not the pretend “Simon” who takes charge of the game at children’s parties.

You can’t have schools, colleges, hospitals and roads. If you lived in the east perhaps you could but since you live in the west you can’t. Don’t you know that by now? You should. You’ve had long enough to get used to it.

The Shinners have made a big deal of the A5 to Dublin and if that goes ahead over the next few years you can’t expect to have a decent road to Belfast as well. Isn’t the Dublin road the one you really, really want anyway? We might do some work on the A6 around Randalstown but that’s OK because it’s east of the Bann. We might “warm up” the rest of the project in case we need it but that’s just a precaution. Now for the good news; the A26 in Ian Paisley’s constituency will go ahead.

That’s the gist of what Simon Hamilton told us after his mini-budget. OK so I’ve loosely paraphrased his actual words and added in what many will have taken as the sub-text of the Minister’s remarks but I’m reflecting the undoubted perception of many people in Derry.

Meanwhile, Gregory says prosecuting Bloody Sunday soldiers “could prove disastrous in how our society deals with the past.” That’s Gregory Campbell the MP for Coleraine and Limavady, by the way, not one of the many Pope Gregories (No relations, as far as I know!).

Really? When something has a “disastrous” effect on nothing the result is still nothing. We haven’t attempted to deal with the past and there’s no prospect of doing so. Richard Haass may cobble together a face-saving formula on parades and flags but there’s no chance of him getting agreement on the past.

There are two obstacles. One is the IRA and the other is the British Government.

Take the British Government first. Consider Bloody Sunday, just for instance. It’s all very well for the establishment to throw a few ex-squaddies to the wolves, so to speak, or for David Cameron to apologise for what happened. I’m not suggesting his apology wasn’t sincere. I think it was, but that’s a long way from blaming senior army officers or politicians close to the establishment. The Saville Report didn’t do that. It’s not going to happen now or anytime. Former squaddies, probably now in their 60s, are convenient scapegoats. Forty-one years ago they were young soldiers. They were trained to be highly aggressive. Their purpose was to use overwhelming force to achieve military objectives but in Derry they were suddenly expected to act as mature and restrained police officers. It wasn’t these ordinary squaddies who decided to “teach the young hooligans of Derry a lesson,” against the advice of the local police commander.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Everyone is subject to the law. Justice should take its course but it’s only fair to point out that the soldiers are convenient scapegoats for senior officers and politicians. Once blame starts to be apportioned up into the hierarchy there’s no knowing where it’ll stop. Governments, just like churches, can’t afford to play that dangerous ‘game’.

Given, that reality, does anyone expect a one-sided spilling of the beans by the IRA?

Gregory can say prosecuting soldiers is “disastrous” but there isn’t anything to have a “disastrous” effect on.