If people in the rest of the UK think they’re having a tough time with their politicians, it’s nothing compared to the people of Northern Ireland (NI).
That’s the message from Belfast-based non-fiction author, academic (and Market Square artist!), Dr Colin Harper.
He is on a mission to highlight the inequity of Assembly members (MLAs) “willingly receiving full pay for the past twenty months while doing nothing”.
“It is an under-reported national scandal,” says Harper who, in one of the more unlikely teamings of the year, has joined forces with local punk anarchist Petesy Burns and recorded protest song, “Smash The System”, to highlight the issue.
“The Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed in January 2017, the direct result of the Minister in charge of a botched heating scheme called RHI refusing to step aside while an enquiry took place.
“RHI will cost Northern Ireland taxpayers an estimated £490-500 million in wasted money.”
According to Harper, between January 2017 and October 2018, the 90 NI MLAs have received £10.25 million in salaries and an estimated £11.77 million in expenses.
During that period, one MLA has received £69,600 extra for his role as Speaker. “He hasn’t spoken once”, says Harper. “Imagine if all of this was happening in London. It would be a national outrage.
“I have no connection with punk whatsoever, but the medium felt right for getting the message out about this mess,” he continues.
“I’d recently watched a documentary on 1970s Belfast punk legends, The Outcasts and was impressed by band member Petesy Burns’ compassionate anarchist ethos – kindness towards one’s fellow man – and by the energy of his performance. I got in touch and he was immediately on board.”
Recorded with a round-up of local music and film-making talent, “Smash The System” shouts it out for putting matters right.
Watch the promotional video!