Posted By: May 17, 2014

Patrick Murphy. Irish News ( Belast). Saturday, May 17, 2014

POLITICS here is a bit like snooker. We used to watch it a lot on television, but
many grew tired of it and switched off. The bad news is that politics (we use the
term loosely, you understand) is returning to your television next week. as part of
this column's civic duty, here is a quick TV guide to help you understand what is
happening. First the background: politics is a career which requires no
qualifications, training or education. (No, I do not know what careers teachers tell
children who want to be politicians. They probably advise them to leave school
immediately.) like snooker, politics may reflect a misspent youth. (David Cameron
misspent his at Eton. You can probably think of other examples yourself.)

Politics works by asking, before an election, what you would like and then telling
you afterwards that what you like is bad for you or, more seriously, for the
country. ("the country" is a political device, designed to make you feel guilty for
wanting whatever you said you would have liked. Politicians find this device
particularly useful in times of war.) The electorate votes for politicians on the
basis of trust, hope and expectation - except in this country, where we vote to keep
other politicians out. (Irish politics is based on the eastern european proverb that
it is better for your neighbour's cow to die than for you to have two cows.) There
are two elections next Thursday (or Friday, if you live in the south. Ireland is now
partitioned in time as well as space.) In The North, one election is for eleven new
district councils, which emerged from a lengthy session of sectarian poker in which
the players split the winnings. No-one has explained what was wrong with the
existing 26 councils. They may have been unacceptable, because the civil rights
movement insisted local councils should be based on science rather than
sectarianism. Social and economic activity patterns formed the basis for their size,
location, central points and boundaries. Now our politicians shepherd a divided
society into administrative areas, which are likely to have a clear sectarian
majority and which bear little relationship to other public sector service areas.
(We used to march against gerrymandering, but nobody cares any more.) Only the SDLP
claims responsibility: "We have delivered local government reform", they boast.
However: "We do not like the 11 council model, but change is essential if we are to
move on." (Vote SDLP: the party which dislikes its achievements.) Other parties had
the good sense to keep quiet. The second election is for the european Parliament,
which cannot propose legislation. Only the unelected european commission can draft
laws, on which the "parliament" can then comment. Both are instruments of the
European Union (EU) which aims to become a world super-power, the United States of
Europe. (If you disbelieve this, look at the role of the EU, along with Russia, in
creating the crisis in Ukraine.) The parliament's administrative headquarters are in
Luxembourg, but it meets in Brussels. Sometimes. Other times it meets in Strasbourg,
200 miles away. However, its committees meet in Brussels - even when the parliament
is in Strasbourg.

If Stormont is a circus, the European Parliament is a travelling circus. Every month
about 1,000 politicians and officials travel on two chartered trains to Strasbourg.
(The train now arriving at Platform 1 is the gravy train from Brussels.) A few
thousand more travel by other means. After four days, they all return to Brussels.
(In an attempt to replicate that model, the new Down, newry and Mourne council will,
apparently, meet on alternative months in newry and Downpatrick. No, you may not
observe that there will be no train, just gravy. That would be ill mannered.)

So one view of next week's polls is that you are being asked to elect the
unqualified to the gerrymandered and the undemocratic. Oh dear, you say, that is
rather negative. you may be right. Perhaps the political parties will resolve these
structural challenges to good governance. Apart from constitutional issues, all
parties promise roughly the same: progress, change, economic growth, better weather
and the secret of eternal happiness. (I made the last two up. the parties made the
other ones up.)

So if you think you can improve society by voting rather than abstaining, good luck.
May your candidate win, may you live to judge his/her promises and may we both live
long enough for you to prove that this column's view of the elections was unfair.
that should give us plenty of time to watch a lot more snooker.