Jake O'Kane: We live in a time when integrity is antithetical to our political masters

My impact on society is limited to whether you find me funny or not. In politics, it makes sense to expect a much higher standard, as one individual politician lacking integrity can affect the lives of millions

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Downing Street this week after the Supreme Court ruled that he had unlawfully prorogued Parliament. Picture by PA
Jake O'Kane

BELIEVE it or not, there was a time when politicians resigned if it was discovered they’d done something wrong. This was due to a word seldom heard today – integrity.

The dictionary definition of the word defines it as, ‘being honest and having strong moral principles’. We are living through a time when such a concept is antithetical to our political masters.

Let me be very clear: I stand in moral superiority to no-one – as a comic, my impact on society is limited to whether you find me funny or not; if you discovered tomorrow that I was a rogue, while you may be disappointed, that would be the extent of the impact on your daily life.

In the arena of politics, it makes sense to expect a much higher standard, as one individual politician lacking integrity can affect the lives of millions. When the UK’s Supreme Court passed a unanimous verdict – something unusual in itself – that Boris Johnson had unlawfully prorogued Parliament, that ruling should have resulted in his immediate resignation.

Never before had a prime minister not only unlawfully closed the doors of Westminster but misled the British monarch to do so. Surely this must throw into question the continuing ‘confidence and supply’ agreement between the DUP and the Tories? Guilty by association, the DUP are now complicit in misleading their monarch – so much for loyalism.

Few were surprised when Johnson refused to do the honourable thing. While he may survive undermining the British constitution, he might meet his political demise due to another scandal. Accusations that he personally intervened so that ex-model, entrepreneur and ‘close friend’ Jennifer Arcuri could travel on three trade missions he attended while mayor of London may yet be his undoing.

Boris, however, is no doubt confused as to why we plebs would be annoyed at a chappie bringing a girlie on junkets at the taxpayer’s expense.

The world’s other political caricature, Donald Trump, faces impeachment after his Marlon Brando Godfather impersonation, making Ukrainian comic-turned-president Volodymyr Zelensky an offer he couldn’t refuse. In a phone call, Trump encouraged the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on the son of Joe Biden, his potential Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election.

You’ll not be surprised that completing my political triumvirate is Ian Paisley. Ian’s latest genius idea saw him launch a vicious personal attack on News Letter journalist Sam McBride. McBride’s crime was to point out the obvious fact that the DUP’s continued opposition to an Irish language act prioritised that issue over resisting change to Northern Ireland’s abortion law.

Calling the journalist "despicable and of low character", Paisley went on to attack McBride’s religious beliefs and Christian education. While few would argue the North Antrim MP’s credentials in judging what constitutes "low character", his attack led to an avalanche of criticism.

Yet again, Ian was forced to offer a grovelling apology. I’d suggest to save time in future, his constituency office create a cover letter for the media: "Ian’s very, very, sorry for – insert details of idiocy – and promises he’ll never do it again."

The ‘latest news’ section on Paisley’s slick web page hasn’t been updated since 2016. Well, it’s hard to get an internet connection in the Maldives. It also fails to mention that under his political stewardship, his constituency has been decimated with the closure of JTI Gallaher, Michelin and, this week, its final major local employer, Wrightbus.

The 1,200 newly redundant Wrightbus employees take little comfort knowing that, according to boss Jeff Wright, "God had been made a shareholder in the company", or that his Disneyesque new church, Green Pastures, was partly funded by £15 million in donations from the now bankrupt business.

Similarly, Thomas Cooke employees were angered to discover their bosses awarded themselves bonuses totalling £47m as the company sank under with £1.6 billion of debt.

Only the naïve will believe the likes of Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Ian Paisley or the bosses at Wrightbus and Thomas Cook will ever be held responsible for their decisions, as the rich and powerful remain immune to the inconvenience of accountability.

That 90 MLAs walk among us with no shame while collecting a salary for a job they haven’t done in more than two and a half years proves my point.

While this obscenity continues, half of nurses in Northern Ireland report doing eight hours or more additional and unpaid work every week. Their actions prove that while integrity does survive in our society, it’s invariably practised by those least able to afford it.

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