Life

Mary Kelly: Dominic Cummings' contempt for the public, and why the north needs a system of 'opt-out' organ donation

The public's inevitable hostility towards the media shouldn't be allowed to distract from the contempt shown to the public by Dominic Cummings' behaviour, for which he made no apology

Dominic Cummings faced the press this week following calls for him to be sacked over allegations he breached coronavirus lockdown restrictions
Mary Kelly

THE media pack at full throttle is not an attractive sight, even when it's a piece of work like Dominic Cummings as its quarry.

I've been part of such scrums in my career and I know that keeping a two metre distance is not an option. To the viewer, it is an unedifying spectacle and of course it's hard not to feel sorry for the harassed victim in the middle of the pushing and shoving. That is part of the Cummings calculation.

So, after ignoring press enquiries for weeks on end until the clamour is deafening, he adopts full martyr mode. Clad in a white shirt to face his aggressors like a firing squad, one by one he politely summons them to the microphone. It all happened in the fragrant surroundings of the Downing Street rose garden. But nothing could disguise the stench of hypocrisy.

Old habits die hard with Cummings, who detests the media, so he showed his contempt by keeping them all waiting for half an hour before beginning a self-serving defence with more holes than Rab C Nesbitt's string vest.

READ MORE: Nuala McKeever's Dominic Cummings remark accidentally broadcast during news bulletin

Forget the detail about the 260 mile trip north, his walk in a bluebell wood and his 60 mile round trip to a nearby beauty spot on his wife's birthday (some coincidence, surely) to check out his eyesight. This was a two-finger gesture to the rest of the population who followed the instructions he had helped to create: to stay at home. Stay there even when it means heartbreaking decisions not to see elderly and dying relatives. Stay at home, even though it means a 13-year-old boy died alone, without his parents at his bedside.

But those rules are just for the little people, according to Cummings, Johnson and the cringing cabinet chorus. They, meanwhile, are free to "interpret" them to suit themselves.

Little wonder there's been such an outcry from Tory backbenchers, bishops, scientists and – yes –even The Daily Mail. The public's inevitable hostility towards the media shouldn't be allowed to distract from the contempt shown to the public by his behaviour, for which he made no apology.

Boris Johnson appeared baffled by the fuss at his own presser. He talked about inaccuracies in the Guardian report – this from the man who was sacked from The Times for making up quotes. And he burbled on about the importance of washing our hands. That he hasn't washed his hands of his arrogant advisor says more about his own lack of character than anything we've seen yet of this shameless leader.

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THE tragic deaths of Declan Mulholland (53) and Lucia Quincy Mee (20) reported in this newspaper highlight the urgent need for more organ donations. Declan, a pharmacist, was next on the list for a transplant, according to his family who have appealed for more people to sign the organ donor register. Only 46 per cent of the population here is currently registered.

I think we need to go further. It is a shocking waste that healthy organs which could offer the chance of life to people like Declan and Lucia and many thousands more are instead destroyed through burial or cremation. And even when people do make their feelings known, consent is still needed from grieving families.

Many countries across the world, including England and Wales, have an opt-out system, whereby consent for organ transplant is assumed unless otherwise stated. In Austria, rates of organ donation quadrupled within eight years of it introducing this system. Scotland and the Republic are also planning to change their legislation similarly.

Here in Northern Ireland, we debated adopting the opt-out in 2016, but decided against it. How many people on the transplant list died since then? How many more will die before we take this brave decision?

Jimmy Stewart and Ginger Rogers in Vivacious Lady

LOCKDOWN afternoons have led to the guilty pleasure of watching old movies on TV in the afternoon. Last week, I dipped into Vivacious Lady starring Ginger Rodgers and James Stewart.

That word took me back to my days on the East Antrim Times in Carrickfergus in the mid-70s.

Back in that unreconstructed era, the front page invariably carried a picture of a pretty girl at a bus stop or walking through the town.

I often had to write captions for these pictures taken by the roving photographer, Archie Peoples. When I described one girl as 'vivacious', Archie shook his head: "If they are really good looking, you write 'beautiful' or 'stunning', if they're not bad it's 'attractive' and if they're downright plain, it's 'vivacious'."

Tell that to Ginger.

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