Friday, May 11, 2007

The devil in the detail?

It was only when Malcolm caught up with Slugger that he spotted a small detail in the share-out of sweeties at Stormont. He expresses his sorrow that he was watching the man (dirty, Sanchez!) and not the ball.

The scrap of evidence, the straw-in-the-wind, the whisper-on-the-grapevine was that John O'Dowd would be the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. Malcolm knew he’d heard a rumbling of this one coming, and even wasted a half-hour of good drinking time trying to locate it.

His long-held assumption had been that the soft, spending ministries (eddicashun and soshal) would be SF’s target, but that the DUP would want to keep a tight grip on the bawbees:

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and - and in short you are for ever floored.

And thereby Wilkins Micawber scores for the Paisleyites!

The Stormont Public Accounts Committee (provided it evolves on Westminster lines) is silent-but-deadly. Its chair has/should have enormous clout. It is the enforcer. This is waking to the horse’s-head-in-the-bed stuff. So, who will be “Jack Woltz”? And who will be Khartoum?

Hence Malcolm's discombobulation that it's John O'Dowd for the job. It might seem the job has gone to an SF аппарáтчик [="apparatchik", you ignorant sods]!

But wait! Is he? This guy seems to have served his time in local government, as well as rising through SF internal politics. He topped the poll in Upper Bann in 2007, took 21% in the 2005 Westminster election (when Trimble was tumbled), and leads the SF group on Craigavon Council. This, Malcolm concludes, is a name to watch.

OK, Craigavon Borough Council is not your City of London, but it does have a budget of pushing £16M. O'Dowd's record is:

Council Account Scrutineer ... Policy and Resources Committee and the Development, the Environment and the Public Services Liaison Committees ... Craigavon Local Strategy Partnership body[,] responsible for the distribution of European peace money.

Malcolm wonders if, on this basis, there really is a glimmering of hope that this Stormont thing could actually work.

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