Coo-ee, over ‘ere!

7 10 2007

The ‘Coo-ee, over ‘ere!’ press statement. Never a nice thing to see doing the rounds.

It’s a desperate, unsophisticated, insubstantial and usually inflammatory commentary piece designed solely to get media interest.

Recent ‘Coo-ee’ statements include: Francie Brolly on Ulster Scots; and David McNarry on not liking the DUP for not liking the UUP. It’s the political equivalent of wearing ‘interesting’ ties to compensate for lack of personality.

So who’s wearing the piano keyboard tie at the school disco this week? Why it’s David ‘In the Year of Our’ Ford!

Specifically, he’s upset at the Secretary of State for saying that the IICD has confirmed “meaningful engagement and negotiations” have started with the UDA over decommissioning. And, in a yet more sinister move, “named interlocutors have been appointed and further meetings are planned”.

The Alliance South Antrim MLA is upset at the Secretary of State’s “unhelpful statement” that “suggusts (sic) a lack of respect for the devolved institutions in general and the work of Margaret Richie in particular”.

The statement’s got ‘Coo-ee’ hyperbole covered all over it. So I’m not wearing it.

Brian Rowan calls it right. There were two bits that needed satisfied. The SoS confirms how the UDA breaks under pressure. Margaret Richie sticks to her guns while the UDA starts to hand over theirs (copyright to all newspapers). Progress is made. The SoS is confirming it.

Alas the Alliance Party is desperate to attack its way back into the story. In his attempt to elbow himself towards the newsroom, Fordy appears ungenerous, truculent – dripping in discomfiture that progress on a law-and-order issue has been made and his fingerprints aren’t on it. Being desperate to decency-proof things is not itself an act of decency.

Rather than “suggust a lack of respect for the devolved institutions in general and the work of Margaret Richie in particular”, I think the SoS statement confirms precisely the opposite.

This is fixing up to be a wonderfully reaffirming moment for the power of our nascent local administration. That a South Down nationalist can face down Belfast’s ultra-loyalist hard men armed with little more than adherence to democratic principle would have been unthinkable only a few months ago. But it’s in the process of happening. For things to move further, Richie and the UPRG must be permitted flexibility in their positions. Ford’s brittle rigidity helps no one, least of all himself.

With an election in the air until this morning, can Fordy have been a tad upset that the SDLP were about to solve a big law-and-order problem in his own backyard?

At present, Ford would be better advised to be quiet. Another couple of simpering ‘Coo-ee’ statements like that and Alliance will position itself outside the winner’s enclosure…

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