Brothers Grim to return to work


Here’s how it is. Following the latest fudge deal, the Procrastination Committee at Stormont is back in business after a four-month break. In fact, our leaders reckon the Executive is going to have weekly meetings to get its backlog red up. This will of course come as a great relief to the pundits who have been calling for the Executive to be restored so it can deal with the economic crisis, although what Stormont can do in this global situation is unclear. Perhaps they can look into the threatened job cuts at UTV, as the proletariat risks being deprived of Logie, Frank and Tina Arena.

Honestly, it’s not like we really missed them that much. Apart from Conor Murphy and Michael McGimpsey merrily running around spending money they don’t have, most ministers have been more or less invisible.

So, what’s the deal? Well, the important point is the devolution of policing and justice. The DUP have agreed that this will happen at some point in the unspecified future. And the minister will possibly be Alliance, or maybe SDLP if Alliance can’t be wooed. Plus, the joint presidency are minded to appoint an Attorney General. Wahey!

There’s also been some movement on the Irish language. The DUP haven’t dropped their opposition to Gerry’s beloved Acht Gaeilge – nor has Gerry told us yet what the Act would actually do – but there’s a vague promise of more “minority language” provision. I guess this means another handout to the Ulster-Scots lobby, although even now the Boord o’ Ulster-Scotch can’t spend the money it already has.

There is also the promise that the Brothers Grim, accompanied by Nigel Dodds (just to lighten the mood) will lobby Gordon Brown for an economic stimulus package. Robbo also reckons he’s going to settle the civil service equal pay claim, assuming the Brits agree to pony up the cash.

But has this changed the underlying situation? Basically, there were two reasons for the political stalemate:

a) Robbo is scared of Jim Allister. Admittedly, the Prodiban are organisationally weak, and have attracted more than their fair share of wingnuts. But Robbo knows that there are enough wingnuts out there to damage the DUP electorally, and he has his eye on next year’s Euro-election. In that situation, Mullah Jim will be the incumbent, and while he’s not what you’d call charismatic, he is a formidable campaigner. More to the point, he knows exactly where the DUP’s bodies are buried.

b) Grizzly reckons that Robbo is playing silly buggers with the peace process. Moreover, although he doesn’t have much to fear from the likes of Éirígí or the IRSP, he is a great believer in protecting his flank, and he reckons the best way of keeping nationalist punters happy is to keep devolution rolling on.

You will have noticed that both of these conditions still obtain. What are the odds of another breakdown before June, just in time to help Robbo in the Euro-election?


  1. Brian Barker said,

    November 20, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I believe that the promulgation of English as the world’s “lingua franca” is impractical and linguistically undemocratic. I say this as a native English speaker.

    Impractical because communication should be for all and not only for an educational or political elite. That is the position of English at the moment.

    Undemocratic because minority languages are under attack worldwide due to the encroachment of majority ethnic languages. Even Mandarin Chinese is attempting to dominate as well. The long-term solution must be found and a non-national language, which places all ethnic languages on an equal footing is essential.

    An interesting video can be seen at
    A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at

  2. ejh said,

    November 21, 2008 at 8:11 am

    But what are you going to do about it? Everybody wants to learn English, how are you going to stop them?

    I live an hour and a half from the French border: a generation ago, everybody here learned French at school. Now nearly all of them learn English. They don’t learn French. They don’t learn Catalan, despite being a similar distance from Catalonia. They don’t learn Aragonese, which is apparently the single most endangered language in Europe, despite the fact that it hs been spoken in the area for hundreds of years. They learn English, because it’s much more likely to be of commercial and cultural use to them than anything else. And naturally that’s a self-reinforcing process.

  3. skidmarx said,

    November 21, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Languages die when parents stop teaching them to their children. There may be a future in bilingualism, but when the language of the world’s popular culture is English, it is to insult any child to suggest they not be as proficient in it as possible.

    There is some Esperanto in Harry Harrison’s novels, though the only bit that springs to mind is I think in The Stainless Steel Rat For President (also a brilliant prefiguration of the Florida election debacle of 2000) where Slippery Jim tells I think one of his sons in Esperanto “You deal with your thug, while I do mine”, disguising it as poetry.

    There was an article in I think Monday’s Guardian about an ex-evangelist who claims to have disproved Chomsky’s notion of a universal grammar by his study of the Piraha in Brazil. As languages die we lose such opportunities.

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