A brief gap while every day was Covid-19, a short recap on the need for accelerated Health reform. As if that were not a big enough challenge, money is being spent by the Stormont Executive while there is still no basic budget this financial year (none since 2016!), no programme for Government, and therefore no baseline to understand scale or impact of spend on future budgets. There are big decisions to be made very soon. The sort of coalition discussions happening now in the Republic of Ireland, on how to manage future deficits and set priorities, seem unimaginable with Sinn Fein at the table (and outside the door) at Stormont. Perhaps it is best suited to being a populist opposition, which it is set to be in the new Dail.
RHI has exposed weaknesses in the entire Stormont infrastructure, which were already known and ignored in favour of 'Keeping the show on the road'. Despite knowing what needed to be reformed, for 20 years, the current Health Service ought to be so much better - and isn't. We rightly praise our frontline health workers for selfless dedication. Perhaps we’d be better demanding an end to political hobby spending and the reform across the board that Northern Ireland badly requires.
At Stormont House, Julian Smith has left the building. While lauded for the moment of MLAs returning to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, he hardly left behind a Northern Ireland Government that could be described as strong and stable. While Sinn Fein in particular has announced money for many, there is still no budget to understand spending/income, and a Programme for Government is due end of April! Then his undue haste to hasten 'Legacy', and in particular the outworking of the HIU proposals that seem designed to be harass ex-security services personnel in a highly vexatious and unfair manner...
New Decade (barely) and we're questioning public sector competence around MOT services. The previous decade started with public disquiet around Northern Ireland's water services. In between, RHI and the rest. Meanwhile, almost 20% of current MLAs are 'co-opted'; Party appointees, serving Party first?
New Approach? We don't seem to be able to start a conversation on change.
All of a sudden, with an almost unseemly haste, a document is waved and everything on Stormont Hill is back to the nothing like normal it was before. The constructed ambiguity of this particular document means that it is truly all things to all Parties, yet perhaps amounting to nothing much. Lots of promises, but who'll be paying?
Endless "reports' on Health reform produce little critical or cultural change in frontline delivery of services. And who pays for pay? Little confidence that an Executive would have the will (or ability) to undertake difficult decisions. Why Sinn Fein might need an Assembly far more than any other Party. Finally, Boris's plans for trade arrangements between GB and NI - who knows? Though on negotiation with EU, there has been a shift in the dynamic of negotiation that isn't much discussed.
At the end of the podcast we remark on how quiet the current election has been. The media gets quite self-important when challenged to tell us more than the obvious. What's behind the headline is often not the copy beneath, which leaves the reader or listener/viewer dissatisfied and wanting more. This episode is a conversation on the current state of public discourse. Perhaps a calm reflection before the next episode which will be after the election, before the New Year....
Political Parties are on manoeuvres, heading into an election. In Northern Ireland local Parties all try to beat (up on) the DUP as a means of making themselves relevant, not actually offering anything new, positive or coherent. While across the UK the outcome of the election might offer a Conservative Government that rushes the Boris version of Brexit through before the 31 January, or not. The election to 'deliver' on Brexit might not deliver on very much.
Hubris before husband, as de Souza vows to keep fighting case which has obvious resolution. There are risks ahead for the Irish 'Father Ted' economic model, including a possible Brexit own-goal?
The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party announced he was leaving his role in due course. The Rabble Alliance in Westminster, all powered up and nowhere to go? Party Conference season's one big issue, barely mentioned in the news reports or election pitches.