“Burned” – by Sam McBride: An Analysis by Donal Lavery

Alex Kane in his review made reference to how Sam McBride (who is only around my young age) of the Newsletter has touched on a story so big, so juicy, so salacious, that it brings back memories of Watergate and “dirty tricks” among the governing clique. I like Sam, I think he is honest and objective in his writings. As I myself became very disillusioned with devolution after McGuinness left the scene; he always seemed to be the “fixer” who kept the proverbial ‘show on the road’ until his tragic death. But the show has ended in tears and the curtain is still to fall.

Some things happened before and after his death which have poisoned our body politics so badly that young and competent MLA’s are simply walking away or considering walking away from the whole poisoned chalice. The public inquiry into RHI, under oath (where charges of perjury would follow any such less than truths), has uncovered a grotesque hornet’s nest of corruption, rivalled only by the Mahon Tribunal in Dublin.

We as a population have become accustomed to politicians (and other professionals) taking money to ensure property dealings are secured, that’s nothing new. But to waste public money, in an appalling age of austerity (where people in wheelchairs are being cast back to work), to burn wood pellets in chicken sheds, at I quote, “sub-tropical temperatures”, reveals the contempt with which some elements in the DUP hold their constituents and overall electorate.

For let’s not forget, that even after this scandal broke the core DUP vote held up at the thought of Sinn Fein overtaking them and demanding a border poll to eradicate the mutilation of our island once and for all. They were wooed and given the red carpet treatment in 2017 when the UK Prime Minister went on to the steps of Downing Street with them to declare what amounts to an insidious coalition (with God only knows what other promises). However much I acknowledge and even respect the increase in funds they seemed to secure for the North, it neither makes up for nor excuses the losses sustained by the exchequer here by some of their actions.

One of the most shocking things to come out of the inquiry and this book by McBride, is the disturbing and undemocratic way in which “Special Advisers” have been able to overrule Senior Civil Servants in a manner which does not occur in either the South, Scotland, England or Wales; Raising the question as to whether we are a “democracy” of any kind. And I apply that to all parties, with good reason.

When a decision is taken in government, this should be stood over in parliament by rigorous scrutiny, and before the nation, where a Minister takes responsibility for every item of it. The government either sinks or swims based on every decision; with the population being the final guarantors. But we have a ludicrous monstrosity here where people who have never been elected to anything, can tell Ministers and MLA’s what to do in respect of their public duties. That’s not democratic – I also believe that some Senior Civil Servants should be pensioned off after this or moved following any change of Minister or Government (given that they have just previously been advising an outgoing Minister/Government on the policy which the incoming administration opposes).

I don’t know what’s going to happen but what I will say is that nothing will occur until there is a new British Government (Conservative or Labour), with such a majority in the Commons to show the DUP the door. One which can meaningfully deliver on their Brexit deal and at the same time legislate for further changes needed in this jurisdiction to avoid hard customs arrangements. Indeed, the Tories may even have to swallow their pride and bring in that dreaded “Amnesty” for all combatants; Stranger ironies have happened than that.

This book has done something which a famous American journalist once described as “taking a public figure out of the moonlight and into the sunlight”, showing their “warts and all” flaws and praises to the world. For Arlene, it could crystallise the end of her political career, which now sees her party out of grace with the Conservatives; out of grace with her MLAs, her supporters and the electorate. Speaking truth to power isn’t easy and comes with many threats, as McBride has detailed. In many ways, the author of this work is the overarching “whistleblower” with the motive being the public interest clause.

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