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Mary Kelly: Edwin Poots can't even reach out to other unionists - what hope for the rest of the community?

DUP leader Edwin Poots finally named his new Stormont team this week, with Paul Givan getting the nod to succeed Arlene Foster as first minister. Picture by Hugh Russell
Mary Kelly

IF Edwin Poots was trying to heal the divisions in his party following the defenestration of Arlene Foster, he must have been taking lessons in diplomacy from Torquemada.

I was taking part in a live broadcast on Talkback on Tuesday as the new DUP leader made the most bizarrely choreographed set of announcements ever seen in Stormont's Great Hall, as he trooped his colleagues up and down the marble stairs four times to make drip feed announcements to the waiting press.

In reverse order, like Eric Morley announcing the Miss World runners-up, he told us who the lucky committee vice-chairs were going to be. Who cares?

Then they disappeared round the corner to the back stairs to come down again with the revelations of the next set of chairman positions.

He then tweeted the next booting out of Foster loyalists, Peter Weir from education and Diane Dodds from economy, and their replacements Michelle McIlveen and Paul Frew, before descending the stairs yet again to make the announcement to the cameras.

Off they went again and then five minutes later came back down to announce Paul Givan as first minister, which was already widely known weeks ago once it emerged that first pick Mervyn Storey didn't want the job.

The crumb of junior minister position was thrown to Donaldson-supporting Gary Middleton.

And there you have it - a tight cabal of creationist, religious fundamentalists running the show, while almost daily comes news of another resignation from disaffected party members.

There were less than gracious tweets from Peter Weir and Diane Dodds. She observed that the new team didn't match the rhetoric about healing and bringing the party together.

So what do they do now? Sit on the party benches sucking lemons until the next election brings more bad news?

Weir, something of an expert in under-achievement, will hardly be welcomed back to the UUP ranks, surely?

What larks. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh out loud at how this drama is playing out.

I wish they would let cameras in to the upcoming Lagan Valley AGM, or even sell tickets. I wonder how that office sharing is working out there, or is Jeffrey D hiding out in Westminster?

The DUP leader said he wanted to reach out to a broad range of unionist opinion under his leadership. He hasn't even managed that.

He ought to be reaching out even wider, to the whole community. Appointing Paul 'cancel Líofa funds' Givan as first minister isn't a great start.

*****

US oldies might, from time to time, envy the gilded beauty of youth and sigh over our own lost golden years.

But we don't envy their student debts, dragged through their working years like another mortgage. And we most certainly don't envy the fact that their youthful indiscretions can follow them, like an albatross, and cause major disruption to their adult life.

Thanks to social media, that stupid remark that seemed funny at the time, especially with a few pints down your neck, re-surfaces years later to total embarrassment and worse.

So 27-year-old cricketer Ollie Robinson, is chosen for the England team and is then swiftly suspended after a trawl through his Twitter posts found two tasteless jokes he published when he was 19 that have now had him labelled as sexist and racist.

Another cricketer, as yet unnamed, has also had racist comments he posted when he was under 16, resurrected.

For crying out loud. Who didn't say or do something stupid or insensitive when they were younger? Who didn't do something that seemed fine at the time, but is now a cultural no-no?

And yes, I was that mother who used brown eye-shadow on her son's face when he went to a fancy dress party as Bob Marley. I did wince when Justin Trudeau was called out for similar crimes.

Robinson did need to apologise, and he did. But that should really be the end of it. Especially when a person who once referred to black people as "piccaninnies" with "watermelon smiles" is still actually the prime minister.

Did you notice how quickly he responded to this incident, backing culture secretary Oliver Dowden's comments that the suspension was "over the top"?

The Tories are quite deliberately highlighting what they like to call "wokery" because they're trying to position themselves as champions of the ordinary citizen against the po-faced politically correct brigade.

Labour will have to be careful not to be drawn into this faux 'culture war' because it is a clear strategy to deflect voters' attention from what really matters.

Crumbling NHS? Tory Cronyism? Housing shortages? Food banks? No, look over here... flags, Britishness, Rule Britannia at the Proms, save our sausages. It's a con.

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