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By David Vance On March 14th, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Couldn’t let this one pass without comment. At a time of recession, with thousands of people without a job, others working reduced hours or on a salary sacrifice, I think it’s important that the political class strike  a note of balance, don’t you? So……

“An independent panel has decided that assembly members pay should rise by almost £5,000 from April 2013. That’s an 11% INCREASE.”

Thank god for independent panels, say I! But lest you think this is just pure avarice..relax;.

“The 11% increase to £48,000 will be financed by a cut in office costs.”

So, office costs which go towards providing a service for constituents will be..ahem..reduced so that the money that goes into the MLA bank account can increase. I see. It makes so much sense and shows how seriously our politicians take their responsibilities.

An MLA’s basic pay is currently £43,101. MLAs who are committee chairs get another £11,331, while deputy chairs get an extra £5,667. Junior ministers get £19,609 on top of the basic while ministers get £37,801. The first and deputy first ministers are entitled to £114,535 each. (Plus the pensions, natch!)

The electorate – the gift that keeps on giving!


By David Vance On March 13th, 2012 at 1:06 pm

First Minister Peter Robinson said the Programme for Government would help the Assembly tackle 'everyday problems'

You have to laugh at the sheer scale of the media manipulation by Pravda on the hill.

“The Stormont Executive’s four-year plan for job creation and economic growth in Northern Ireland has been rubber-stamped by the Assembly, despite opposition from the SDLP. The Programme for Government (PfG) sets out the powersharing administration’s priorities up to 2015 with a stated focus on tackling disadvantage. Promoting 25,000 new jobs and achieving £1 billion of investment in the economy are among 82 separate commitments set out. Increasing visitor numbers to 4.2 million and boosting tourist revenue to £676 million by the end of 2014 are also goals.”

The media has run with this story, with a smiling image of Peter Robinson, to make us feel all warm and cuddly, inside. With a brand new shiny FOUR year plan, to replace the previous one, what can go wrong?

Well, this actually.

The Northern Ireland economy has just celebrated 51 months of economic decline. Or, if you like, the last heroic 4 year plan delivered ….nothing.


By David Vance On March 11th, 2012 at 8:22 pm

In recent years, a part of Belfast turns into a booze driven hell hole during St. Patrick’s Day. The trouble makers are students and they turn the area know as “the Holy land” into a rowdy and often lawless hole.  Cue politicians demanding “something must be done”.

The University of Ulster has called on retail drink outlets not to target cheap drinks promotions at students over the St Patrick’s Day period. The appeal comes a day after the Environment Minister warned Northern Ireland’s pubs and clubs they must end cheap alcohol deals. After a meeting with members of the pub trade on Wednesday, Alex Attwood said he would leave no stone unturned when it came to stamping out the binge-drinking culture.

Nanny Attwood thinks that he knows best although if I were him I wouldn’t worry about no stone being left unturned since the hooligans that infest this area will surely find a use for such stones.

There is NO need for bullying pubs and clubs – all that is required is law enforcement, something that seems to have escaped Attwood’s attention.  The other aspect here is that it is not the booze that is the problem – it is those students who abandon even the vestige of civility during this weekend.  They should not be treated as innocent by-standers in this situation. They are the CAUSE of the problem.


By David Vance On March 9th, 2012 at 9:26 am

Tom Elliott

The continuing saga of the decline and fall of the Ulster Unionist Party continues;

The race is on for a new Ulster Unionist leader after Tom Elliott dramatically quit the post. His decision came on Thursday night, just days ahead of a UUP deadline to formally re-nominate him for a further term. He said he had support across the party but not everyone was willing to give him a chance.

Not everyone? What does that mean, precisely? There is no political party in the world where a Leader has 100% undying support – with the exception of North Korea and the DUP. So what has triggered this decision? Petulance? Distress? Just fed up?

Seems that Tom – the farmer from Fermanagh – has decided he no longer wants to lead. My question is whether he ever started leading the Party? The UUP is rudderless, floating in the political sea with no direction, no point of differentiation and little hope. Yes I am sure we will hear plenty of experts advising that it can reverse its fortunes if only it embraces a more liberal leader (Basil McCrea, John McCallister) who can then impose the iron rod of party discipline that seems so sadly lacking.

With all due respect, I think that is nonsense. The UUP lacks a vision as well as a leader. Unless it can find the former, the latter is irrelevant. In a way I almost feel sorry for the UUP. After all, under David Trimble, it embraced the appeasement process and was then slaughtered at the polls by the DUP for doing so. Then, the DUP proved to be be even more keen to work with the IRA’s political wing but too late for the UUP. Left out in the cold, it is freezing to death and any attempt to make it become more liberal will destroy it altogether. But carrying on down the road to nowhere is also futile.

I know some decent people who belong to the party. In some ways, they are a more agreeable bunch than the Dupers. But the UUP lacks a strategic vision and the party structure to carry it forward. Last time around, they flirted with the Conservative link. That failed. Now, I wonder where they will jump?


By David Vance On March 8th, 2012 at 9:06 am

I note that the terrorist threat level in Northern Ireland “remains severe”, Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson has said.

Mr Paterson told MPs in the Commons there was “absolutely no place for organised crime or violence in Northern Ireland

Surely there is such a place. It’s called Stormont.


By David Vance On March 6th, 2012 at 10:00 am

Martin McGuinness and Raymond McCartney

One of the most entertaining aspects of the Northern Ireland appeasement process is the studied choreography that is designed to make us all feel good and reassured that progress is being made. Last evening saw such an example;

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness went to a football match at Windsor Park in Belfast on Monday night. The Sinn Fein MP was alongside party colleague Raymond McCartney. They were watching Derry City take on Linfield in the first leg of the quarter-final of the Setanta Sports Cup.

How touching to see two former IRA terrorists in the stands, watching the footie, showing that the past has been left behind. Well, that’s what the PR wants you to believe but hang on a sec, I detect a problem.

You see this was the FIRST LEG of the quarter-final game between the Nationalist supported Derry City (sic) and the Unionist supported Linfield. The return leg to Londonderry is going to pose some problems for Linfield fans. The PSNI have said they will not be able to provide policing at the event because….. of the terrorist threat from Irish republicans. Whoops!


By David Vance On March 5th, 2012 at 8:50 pm

The Executive spent £1,228,533 on hospitality in 2008/09.

Northern Ireland remains mired in economic gloom but cheer up, there is one area where recession has been beaten off and the bubbles of champagne rise to the top of the glass. Can you guess which one it is?

“The NI  Executive has spent nearly £10,000 a week on hospitality since 2006 and plans to spend £400,000 on photography this year, it has been revealed. The highest spending department on entertainment is the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), which clocked up a £826,760 bill in the five-year period.

Jim Allister, the TUV leader, claimed: “These figures demonstrate once again just how out of touch Stormont is with the needs of ordinary people — particularly at a time when many are finding themselves out of work or suffering pay cuts.” Mr Allister uncovered the figures as part of his ongoing efforts to identify areas where savings could be made in Executive spending. The entertainment costs come in response to a series of written questions by the TUV MLA. But, he claimed: “Most departments did not include hospitality provided by their arm’s-length bodies when responding to my question. “So the overall figure will be much higher. I already know from a previous answer that Invest NI alone, for example, spent £2m in just five years.”

Two points here;

1. Almost half a million on photographs seems a tad extortionate, even for the Vanity Brothers, Peter and Marty. This money could be directed to much more needy areas but as you can see, there is no intention of doing so.

3. Were it not for Jim Allister, this information would remain buried. Like some other things. The TUV remains a small beacon of light in the darkness of the bloated Assembly.


By David Vance On February 27th, 2012 at 9:11 am

I read that a victim of the Claudy bombings says she has “some hope” that the IRA will come clean about the attack in the months coming up to the 40th anniversary of the atrocity.

Mary Hamilton who was injured in the triple bomb attack, said the Provos’ admission of responsibility for the killing of nine-year-old Gordon Gallagher in 1973 could pave the way for further admissions.

Speaking to the News Letter last night, Mrs Hamilton expressed her surprise at the move, but said many more victims were still desperate for answers. “Maybe now these IRA men are finally starting to be troubled by their consciences, and maybe there is some hope that they will finally admit to Claudy before the 40th anniversary this year [July 31],” she said. “My first thoughts were when I heard that the IRA has made this admission, was ‘what about Claudy?’ “I fully sympathise with the Gallagher family and what they have gone through over the last 40 years and I am sure that this will help them in some way. “It doesn’t matter what religion or side of the community you are from, when you lose a loved one in a terrorist attack, it is very difficult to get on with things.”

Mrs Hamilton, a Derry city councillor whose brother-in-law was murdered by the IRA, said the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness could still help in their search for truth. She said: “The person who knows the answers is Martin McGuinness. He was second-in-command of the IRA in Londonderry at the time, so he has to know who was behind it. “I believe that those who have shot their way into power at Stormont will have to accept what they did in the past, there are so many, many victims like us who need answers to bring some kind of closure.”

So, what DID Martin McGuinness know about the planning and execution of the Claudy bombings? Come to think of it, what did the second in command of the IRA in Londonderry know about the many murders carried out in the city when he held that position? So many questions but for some odd reason, no answers from Mr McGuinness. We can but speculate why this might be but I am sure that the co-First Minister would want to ensure that the terrorists scum behind Claudy and all those other killings are brought to justice. To expect anything less from him would be to deny justice – who would want that?


By David Vance On February 26th, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Now then, as you know, I am not a fan of Ian Paisley but I was pleased to hear in recent days that he was making progress following a major health problem. At 85 years old, this situation cannot be easy for the familyor Dr Paisley. Then I came across this story..

A man has been arrested on suspicion of taking a picture of Ian Paisley in his hospital bed. The 85-year-old former Northern Ireland First Minister is recovering from a serious illness in the Ulster Hospital outside Belfast. The 41-year-old man detained is believed to be a staff member. Police said he was arrested as part of an investigation into an allegation of misconduct in a public office. He has been released on bail pending further inquiries.

I have no idea if this allegation is true or otherwise but I would trust that in the generality that no one would be so cruel or indeed opportunistic to take a picture of an ailing patient in any hospital. When ill, we must have our dignity respected and the idea that someone working in a hospital might take advantage of the weakened state of a public figure by taking a photo of them is…sickening.


By David Vance On February 23rd, 2012 at 6:58 pm

So, here we go, a little earlier on today I was asked to comment on whether BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman was right to say that Tony Blair’s apology for the Irish Famine was “morally vacuous”.  You can check the interview out here. If ONLY broadcasters could share the expertise of those Illuminati here who think I should stick to discussing the NI economy and Elvis Costello lyrics…