5 days in the life of Ken Maginnis

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Monday: Wake at 6.30 with the feeling that it's going to be one of those weeks. A head cold - a memory of Lansdowne Road last Saturday; a hastily rearranged diary thanks to John Prescott's election-inspired aberration over BSE;a Sunday that wasn't like Sunday with at least a dozen interviews; the phone already ringing!

An hour's dictation (not enough), then off to discuss the disposal of dead livestock with the Chief Public Health Officer. I ponder the Government's unenforcable adage, "the polluter pays". Unfortunately only the responsible do; the irresponsible dump in the nearest lake or river. Dead cows don't talk. Meet project manager to discuss Millennium funding for a regeneration trust project which I chair, then drive 40 miles to Belfast to meet the chief executive of the Industrial Development Board for lunch and a discussion about new export opportunities to the US. Get a good hearing and head for the airport and the House.

Too late for Minister Hogg's speech and that by Labour's Gavin Strang - colleagues haven't been able to find any substantial difference in approach. An election gimmick gone wrong! Ulster Unionists abstain and continue to pursue their strategy that while accepting a general UK approach, re- entry to the export market can best be spearheaded by Northern Ireland producers.

TUESDAY: The Northern Ireland Grand Committee has a rare meeting this morning, debating public expenditure for the next three years. We need regular meetings like the Scottish GC. It's now 25 years since direct rule was introduced and we still do not have real democratic accountability.

I'm worried by the huge cutbacks in environmental services, social security administration and education; there are lesser reductions in agriculture - still our biggest industry - roads and housing.

Fly back to Belfast for a meeting with the Police Authority for Northern Ireland. The head cold is worse but law and order is my speciality and I'm cheered by the candour of our discussion. All are concerned, not by the volume of papers on the table but by the lack of financial information. Changes are in the pipeline but no figures indicating they are being properly costed. Discuss various reports - such a multiplicity of unproven ideas at such an uncertain time!

End the day with a few colleagues, a "political" supper and a good bottle of oaken red.

WEDNESDAY: Feeling awful.Phone Westminster and apologise that I won't even consider flying and will miss my select committee and parliamentary party meetings. Irritate my wife by not staying in bed but ease my conscience by spending 12 solid hours in the office. The catch-up process is obviously good therapy - by midnight I'm on the mend.

THURSDAY: Maybe the cold was a blessing in disguise - when did I last get consecutive days in the office? Encouraged by the SDLP leader John Hume's unequivocal rebuke to Sinn Fein in the Irish News. But what does he mean that he will "look elsewhere" for political progress if Republicans do not deliver a permanent ceasefire? Can it be an election ploy? I don't think so - it will have national and international repercussions. I must phone him; it's a courageous step for any politician to admit that he's been wrong. I agree to a request from the Irish News for a 900- word response. This mustn't be allowed to go unnoticed. I include a plea for Hume to allow his party to come back to the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue. We all need to be there and no one knows better than Ulster Unionists that boycotts are self-defeating.

Chair meeting at my local rugby club this evening. We undertake to raise almost pounds 1m for reconstruction and new facilities, necessary if Dungannon is to remain in the top echelon of Ulster and Irish rugby. First 15 pledges are for over pounds 22k. A good start.

FRIDAY: Attend the Northern Ireland Forum in Belfast where I act as party leader of the 30-member Ulster Unionist group. One or two difficult issues to be resolved internally before we actually enter the chamber. That's politics - I'm glad I'm not too thin-skinned! As usual, common sense prevails.

Fly to Chester to address a large and enthusiastic body of Unionist supporters. I'll come back early in the morning for the rugby.Dungannon need the points and I need the excitement! Not that it's been as bad a week as I envisaged. Just think what it might have been if I'd been feeling better!

Ken Maginnis is Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Comments