A good day to bury bad news?

 

Is Alliance's Chris Lyttle right to suspect the executive decided to bury some bad news by releasing a report which highlighted its failure to meet previous targets on the same day as the high profile upbeat announcements of capital investment in roads and hospitals?

In favour of his suspicion is the low key way in which the report emerged - via a written statement rather than a minister appearing in the assembly chamber.

I've recently expressed doubts about the worth of some Stormont debates.

But surely there was enough meat in the assessment of the first and deputy first minister's own Economic Policy Unit, as well as Sammy Wilson's Performance and Efficiency Delivery Unit, for MLAs to get their teeth into?

However, one argument against the conspiracy theory is that the report covered the executive prior to the last assembly election, and some of its most negative conclusions concerned the failure to meet targets regarding promoting health.

Given that the DUP and Sinn Fein never hesitated to beat up the former Health Minister Michael McGimpsey prior to the election, there is no reason to believe they would go out of their way to bury an opportunity to pursue their favourite pastime.

Putting the presentational issue to one side, there is a separate debate the assembly and its committees can have about how realistic the executive's targets are.

If a minister adopts a modest goal it is easier to look good. Some of the health targets - like halting the rise in obesity - seem laudable but so wide-ranging that it would be hard for any department to mark them down as completed.

It is a voluminous report - but if you have a moment the list of executive targets marked green, amber or red on whether or not they have been achieved is interesting to peruse.

Follow this link to access the full report.

 
Mark Devenport, Political editor, Northern Ireland Article written by Mark Devenport Mark Devenport Political editor, Northern Ireland

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