This may be news to everyone in the ‘normal’ parts of the UK, but the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed in January 2017 and has not met since then. It collapsed because DUP’s Arlene Foster (NI First Minister) personally oversaw/signed-off on a scandalous heating scheme where farmers basically got rewarded huge sums for literally wasting energy. It is calculated to cost tax-payers £490 million. Foster refused requersts from other parties to stand aside until an inquiry was concluded. In what other part of the UK would anyone have got away with such monstrous arrogance?
Other ‘issues’ stopping these MLAs from actually carrying out their job descriptions as public representatives in a representative assembly seem to be a load of crap about ‘identity’ and secondary languages – the DUP not willing to meet a commitment in the Good Friday Agreement for some kind of Irish language act unless they can shoehorn in something about Ulster-Scots (a made-up language corralled into being as a cultural/political-pawn counterweight to Gaelic). Meanwhile, there is no-one to run normal everyday things in NI like health, education, etc. – NI civil servants are doing it all but can only go so far, legally – just keeping the ship afloat, really, unable to ‘make new decisions’.
Meanwhile, a rancid gang of 10 DUP members prop up the national government – which means the national govt is hardly likely to start banging heads together or actually stop the salaries of NI Assembly members (MLAs). They are sitting at home doing bugger all.
Much as I try to ignore NI politics, I find myself getting angry about this. The hubris, arrogance and flagrant waste of public money – and endless hand-wringing, whingeing appearances by these stay-at-homes on local TV – is simply too great.
I’ve recently asked the NI office for information under FOI rules: the amount paid in salaries to MLAs since the thing collapsed; the amount signed off in MLA expenses since the thing collapsed.
Meanwhile, using basic public info online, I’ve calculated that at least £5,896,300 has been spent in MLA salaries in the first 15 months of their sulk – 80 of them on £48,000pa, 8 on £80,000pa and 2 (including the one who has cost us all millions because she couldn’t add up) on £114,500pa.
So what does one do about this? Well, I’ve signed a petition to stop their pay, for all the good that it will do and, obviously, being me – a genteel, bourgeois outsider and progressive-rock apologist – I’ve created a punk protest song called ‘Smash the System (Kick it In)’ – inspired by YouTube performances by NI punk legend and old-school anarchist Petesy Burns, a friend of a friend. Maybe he had it right all along?
I met Petesy for coffee and muffins today. We’ll be recording it properly within the next 4 weeks and I’ll have a video filmed to stick on YouTube. Naturally, it is an entirely futile gesture – but there are times when, as Beyond the Fringe once put it, we need futile gestures.
Here’s the demo: