This is a useful addendum to my post on Friday, which highlighted the deleterious effect of political boycotting of the only institutions that can deliver real change both in the here and now and in the longer term for four out of the last six years.
John Compton, author of the previous report the joint first ministers of the DUP and Sinn Féin also chose to ignore, Transforming Your Care had this to say about the total absence of any real political enterprise…
“We’ve had an assembly for two of the last six years, I mean that is fairly catastrophic for the health service because we are a tax-funded system that relies on political leadership,” he said.
“When you don’t have political leadership, you don’t get decisions and when you don’t get decisions, then you get the out-workings of what you see today in our health service.”
There’s even be an increasing tendency within the local press to start identifying senior members of what the writers of Yes Minister used to mockingly called the “permanent government” as being responsible for the lack of movement.
There are some powers of discretion available to senior civil servants, but what’s missing is that the whole point of electing MLAs is to function as a narrative bridge between the concerns of the parish and the more strategic issues of the whole region.
So if an expert report recommends folding acute services in what used to be known as the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen, that’s a decision that has to take account of the varying degrees of concerns from the local community.
A key function of political parties is to internalise these tensions and develop an narrative to enable action within a framework of strategic objectives. Although we can criticise SF and the DUP, it’s hard to spot who else is offering that kind of work.
Which of them has anything to say about health and mental health, new workplace technologies, safe and secure communities, increasing violence against women and girls, housing security, childcare provision and early years education?
These are all issues that cannot really be dealt with by sectarianising the discourse. That’s outside a lot of comfort zones (for pols and pol corrs), but it’s where the voter bonus lies, since it is the chief worry and concern for an awful lot of ordinary folk.
They largely believe politicians are either not able to deal with it, or they’re not remotely interested in helping them.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty