Saturday, July 26, 2003

The Rights and Wrongs of the Dickson Row

Our current custodian of the Chair of the NIHCR, Brice Dickson is currently under the spotlight as he is assailed from all sides, primarily for his handly of the infamous Holy Cross dispute. Belfast Gonzo and the ubiquitous Slogger have both recently buzzed on the issue. Indeed yours truly has been involved in the debate, pointing out the arguments that a liberal academic was unsuitable for the role in the first Instance.

As Gonzo notes, with support seeping from the SDLP, and the Irish News apparently gunning for him, it's difficult to envisage how he might survive. If he falls, it will set an extraordinary president for any future quango officeholder of the post-GFA world. Nuala O'Loan has survived so far on a combination of media goodwill, SDLP support and the important winning of a number of battles with PSNI. Will she now be looking over her shoulder? How will the Commissioner for Children survive her inevitable first battle with a Church-run school, especially if the Durkin mafia decide to back the bishops?

Does all this show that the great new vista of rights and ombudsmen is only as strong as their approval rating with various key politicians? The whole area has the air of the vulture about it. Unless you're Jeffrey Donaldson, you seldom get a championship rematch in Northern Ireland. Our battles tend to nasty, brutish and short, the losers vanquished to a world of political 'untermenchen' with all the influence of a greenfly.

We still see our world through our Black and White, 'Zero-sum' glasses, and unfortunately or not, it looks like dickson will not learn from his mistake; he'll be devoured by it.