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BBC Film Showed New Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey Driving Motability Car Into Stormont


Many thanks to a source who late last night emailed me the link (see above) to the BBC Spotlight film on Alex Maskey’s use of a Motability car.



I have a dog in this fight. I have to say this at the outset of this piece. For many years, when I lived in Belfast, I was a grateful recipient of cars provided by a British government scheme for disabled drivers called Motability. So I am a fan of this scheme and I wish it well.

If you were sufficiently disabled – and with polio in both legs I qualified – you could either get a weekly Motability grant to pay for taxis and the like or you could opt for a car fitted with hand controls that you could drive to work or to shop. Every three years or so, you could swap the car for a new vehicle.

The scheme, which was a brainchild of the Labour government back in the 1970’s, transformed life for thousands of disabled people, not least in Northern Ireland. It enabled them to get around, to get to work, to shop, to have holidays with their families and so on.

Needless to say, the Tories hated Motability. When Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979 one of her first targets was that scheme, but when she tried to scrap it there was an uproar and she had to relent.

But the Tories bided their time. Eventually under the predecessors of the current regime in Downing Street the opportunity arose, not least because disabled people were getting it in the neck thanks to the austerity regime introduced by the Cameron government. The Disabled Living Allowance, which could be exchanged for a Motability car, has since come under sustained assault with the result that the scheme itself is endangered.

But the slow and lingering death of Motability has been made all the easier when it became clear that in some places fraud was rampant. One of the worst offenders was West Belfast where Motability cars, allegedly rented by disabled people, were instead being driven by perfectly healthy people, some of whom used the cars for taxi services, many of which were under the control of paramilitary groups, not least the Provisional IRA.

I can remember, before I left Belfast in 2001, discovering that a senior Sinn Fein official in the Markets area was driving a Motability car which he was not entitled to use. The Motability tax disc was prominently displayed on his car’s windscreen.

He was not the only malefactor.

Eventually, in 2004, the BBC in Belfast decided to investigate the fraud and lo and behold who did the Beeb film driving a Motability car into the Stormont car park but Alex Maskey, who this weekend has been elevated to the Speakership of the new, revived Assembly. That job is well paid, is not exactly onerous and brings a generous pension.

Here is a report of that incident by Jim Cusack in The Sunday Independent in an article dated February 11th, 2007:

I think the BBC should dig up that clip and the interview with Maskey that accompanied it and screen it again, while those who voted him into the Speaker’s chair this weekend might care to reflect on the implications of what they have done. A lot of disabled people in Northern Ireland are now deprived of the ability to be mobile thanks to the Motability fraud.

The ‘New’ Deal At Stormont, Or Plus Ca Change….

A predictable yawn. So not an awful lot to say about this deal, which pretty much looks the same as the one before it, with one or two bells added or subtracted.

Two aspects once again strike me as worth commenting on. One is that when everything is boiled down to the bone, the Provos have once again settled for a deal that is not worth the loss of one life, much less the more than three thousand killed and tens of thousands wounded or whose lives were otherwise blighted by the decades of awful violence.

The Provos fought their war not for an Irish language Act but for Irish unity – at least that is what they told everyone, not least those who killed or were killed for that goal. So what conclusions from the deal can one come to about the Provos?

I think their willingness to accept, indeed to negotiate such a deal confirms that the Provos really belong to the Defenderist tradition rather than the republican and separatist movement that defines classical Irish republicanism.

Separatist republicans, faced with the same options, would wrap the guns in plastic, dig holes in the bog and hide the weapons away for use on a better day. Defenderists would do what the Provos have done and negotiate the best deal they could for their people, notwithstanding the political context.

This distinction between the two founding branches of Irish republicanism was never grasped by Unionists. As far as they were concerned all republicans were the same: separatists who would accept nothing less than the destruction of the union.

Had they recognised the truth – which is now so evident – that the Provos were just the armed wing of constitutional Nationalism and acted on it, by doing a deal with John Hume and Gerry Fitt’s SDLP back in the 1970’s, Northern Ireland need not have gone through the horrors of the past four decades.

The tragedy, as we can all now see clearly, is that Unionism could have killed the Troubles at their birth by embracing reforms and a place in the decision-making process for Catholics. But they could not see that. The pity is that some of them are still blind to it.

Michelle Goldberg On Trump’s ‘Wag The Dog’ War

New York Times’ columnist Michelle Goldberg is the latest American commentator to liken Trump’s strike against Iran to the satirical movie ‘Wag The Dog’, which depicted a desperate US President creating a fictional war in Albania to save his presidency, a trope first suggested on this blog hours after the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards was killed in a US drone strike.

She writes:

Beyond that, Trump, now impeached and facing trial in the Senate, has laid out his rationale over years of tweets. The president is a master of projection, and his accusations against others are a decent guide to how he himself will behave. He told us, over and over again, that he believed Barack Obama would start a war with Iran to “save face” and because his “poll numbers are in a tailspin” and he needed to “get re-elected.” To Trump, a wag-the-dog war with Iran evidently seemed like a natural move for a president in trouble.

You can read her full article here.

Elizabeth Warren Says Trump Iran Strike Is ‘Wag The Dog’ War

Impeachment: Warren accuses Trump of ‘wag the dog’ strike on Suleimani

Elizabeth Warren speaks at a rally in Iowa on Saturday.
Elizabeth Warren speaks at a rally in Iowa on Saturday. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

Elizabeth Warren has suggested Donald Trump ordered the drone assassination of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani to distract the American public from his own impeachment, taking the country “to the edge of war” for his own political purposes.

“We know Donald Trump is very upset about this upcoming impeachment trial,” the Massachusetts senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination told NBC’s Meet the Press. “But look what he’s doing now. He is taking us to the edge of war.”

Observers were quick to say Warren was accusing Trump of “wag the dog” tactics, meaning an attempt to distract public attention by launching a military strike.

A 1997 film satire starring Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman used the phrase as its title and similar charges were levelled against Bill Clinton in 1998, when he ordered strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan while embroiled in the scandal which led to his own impeachment.

Trump ordered the strike against Suleimani, which happened in Baghdad on Friday. It followed a rocket strike in Iraq that killed an American contractor and wounded US troops, US airstrikes in response and a siege of the US embassy in Baghdad by Iranian-backed militias.

On Sunday Iran called Trump a “terrorist in a suit” and told US media outlets retaliation would hit US military targets.

Warren told CNN’s State of the Union it was “reasonable” to ask if the strike was meant to be a distraction, “particularly when the administration, immediately after having taken this decision, offers a bunch of contradictory explanations for what’s going on.

Trump’s Dog Wagging Part Two…..

As the US media row in behind (already forgetting their political system lied about WMD’s in Iraq) and the Democrats flail around helplessly (impeachment now a forgotten thing), Trump says he killed an Iranian military chief because he was planning more attacks on Americans. So, what on earth does he think is going to happen now? This from today’s New York Times:

A Guide To Trump’s Iran Crisis: ‘Wag The Dog’, The Movie

White House Emails Tied Trump To Ukraine Scandal On Eve Of Iran Strike

Purely a coincidence of course: