This ab­sen­tee land­lord is ru­in­ing North­ern lives

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT - Joe Duffy

WITHIN hours of the del­uge from hell that en­gulfed the north-west on Tues­day night, three Ir­ish Govern­ment min­is­ters were in the homes of Done­gal promis­ing im­me­di­ate fi­nan­cial aid for the vic­tims. A few miles across the bor­der, there were no such pow­er­ful ges­tures. In­stead, the DUP, SDLP and Sinn Féin traded petty in­sults over who was to blame for the in­fra­struc­ture fail­ures that saw many homes dev­as­tated.

Vis­it­ing Derry two weeks ago, I was struck by how down­cast peo­ple were at the ab­sence of a govern­ment. North­ern friends told me of their ut­ter frus­tra­tion that they sim­ply did not know who is run­ning the coun­try. Sea­soned and de­cent cam­paign­ers re­marked that they had sim­ply no-one to lobby as the power now re­sides in Lon­don. As one friend re­marked to me: ‘We are bril­liant at do­ing elec­tions – but we can’t do govern­ment!’

The in­abil­ity of the two main North­ern par­ties to form a govern­ment is truly tragic. And the sit­u­a­tion isn’t helped by the rep­u­ta­tion of the North­ern Sec­re­tary, James Bro­ken­shire. The MP for Old Bex­ley and Sid­cup has been in the job for over a year and in the words of re­spected his­to­rian and ex-politi­cian Brian Feeney: ‘You have to go back a long way to find a pro­con­sul as di­rec­tion­less as the cur­rent spec­i­men.’

Rel­a­tives of vic­tims of the Trou­bles who cam­paigned to meet the ef­fec­tive gover­nor of North­ern Ire­land walked out of a meet­ing with Bro­ken­shire such was their frus­tra­tion. No doubt Bro­ken­shire has to at­tend to con­stituency mat­ters in Eng­land. He won his seat in south Lon­don by promis­ing to keep his lo­cal A&E unit open – it closed six months af­ter he was elected.

He was nowhere to be seen west of the Bann this week as the heav­ens opened. Of course he was be­ing cav­al­caded around Dublin com­plete with Garda out­rid­ers as he was fer­ried from one power breakfast to an­other. This type of at­ten­tion would turn any­one’s head.

Mean­while, north of the bor­der, phone-in ra­dio shows were dom­i­nated this week by wait­ing lists in hos­pi­tals, which are at an all-time high. BBC pre­sen­ters com­plained that they were un­able to in­ter­view Bro­ken­shire about the cri­sis – maybe he was too busy try­ing to re-open his lo­cal A&E unit or ad­dress­ing Lon­don­ers’ con­cern over the si­lenc­ing of Big Ben!

Dur­ing this year’s UK gen­eral elec­tion, Bro­ken­shire spent most of his time in his con­stituency; the only time he spoke about his work in North­ern Ire­land was to at­tack Jeremy Cor­byn for his al­leged links with IRA sup­port­ers. While this might be good point-scor­ing in the cos­mopoli­tan sub­urbs, it doesn’t au­gur well for his role as me­di­a­tor be­tween Sinn Féin and the DUP.

His main po­lit­i­cal stance at the mo­ment is his con­stant re­it­er­a­tion that there will not be any spe­cial sta­tus for North­ern Ire­land postBrexit. Such is the ig­no­rance of the sit­u­a­tion on this is­land that the BBC went into melt­down last week when one Ir­ish politi­cian claimed there were more bor­der cross­ings be­tween the Repub­lic and the North than be­tween the EU and all coun­tries to the east of it! The BBC ‘re­al­ity check’ dis­cov­ered it was true, by the way – 275 to 137 roads.

No won­der North­ern Ire­land seems adrift – let’s hope re­al­ity bites sooner rather than later.

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