Opinion

Jake O'Kane: Oh yes it is - Stormont Assembly is a year-round pantomime of embarrassment

While MLAs rounded on Doug Beattie, more important issues were ignored - little things like health workers on strike and the cost-of-living crisis

Jake O'Kane

Jake O'Kane

Jake is a comic, columnist and contrarian.

Edwin Poots leaves the Assembly after the latest failed attempt to restore powersharing. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Edwin Poots leaves the Assembly after the latest failed attempt to restore powersharing. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire Edwin Poots leaves the Assembly after the latest failed attempt to restore powersharing. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

WHENEVER my family get on a plane, due to the seating configuration, I invariably end up sitting alone whilst my wife and two children sit together. Until I win the lottery and buy a plane of my own, I'm resigned to this being my reality.

And so, some years ago I found myself yet again trudging behind my family to my single seat on a flight home from Heathrow. On looking up I noticed my wife had stopped and was staring in my direction.

Immediately I knew something was wrong by her half-smile - most husbands will recognise this smile as spousal joy at their partner's imminent expense. It's best captured in the enigmatic smirk of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. While her smile is world-famous and has been the subject of countless academic books and lectures, any husband will recognise it as that of a wife relishing the fact her husband has appeared with his trousers on backwards.

In my case, my beloved had realised that my single seat was beside none other than DUP MP Gregory Campbell and was patiently waiting to see my reaction.

She wasn't disappointed; looking around quizzically to see what could have caused her to react the way she did, I clocked Mr Campbell's cherubic little face looking up towards me and came as close to fainting as I ever want to come.

Mr Campbell mirrored my horror, the blood draining from his face as it dawned on him what was happening. As my wife and I put our cases into the overhead compartment, I fervently hissed, "please, please, please".

Much to my surprise and relief she agreed to swap seats, so I ended up sitting not beside but a few rows behind the equally traumatised parliamentarian.

This memory came back on hearing of Edwin Poots's aeronautic trauma due to a loutish idiot during the week. It was a busy week for the DUP MLA in which he'd managed to fit in a trip to the Assembly the previous Wednesday; the poor man clearly needed a break after such exertions.

Along with his fellow politicians, he'd put in a gruelling few hours before breaking for an unearned Christmas holiday. I remain baffled as to how our non-legislators distinguish between work and leisure as, for them, both are identical.

In a warm-up for the main panto, Doug Beattie was denounced after accusing the DUP of "whining and crying like a little girl from the sidelines". This brought gasps of horror from incandescent MLAs who just about managed to stop themselves from shouting, "He's behind you."

While in no way condoning Beattie's errant comment, I'd point out there were more important issues which remained ignored. Little things like health workers on strike, a cost-of-living crisis and an energy crisis all exacerbated by a political vacuum created by politicians who'd decided it was more important to condemn a middle-aged ex-squaddie for misspeaking.

Mr Poots even discovered his 'woke-ism' to lead the attack, conveniently forgetting his own litany of idiotic statements stretching back decades. In a grandstanding finish, Mr Poots accused Mr Beattie of being an "embarrassment to unionism" – whereas most view Mr Poots as embarrassing.

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ONE of the benefits of being a comic is that I can be ridiculously inconsistent, so having written I hoped England were beaten by France, I ended up rooting for them last week.

I put my miraculous conversion down to us Irish having a bias towards the underdog, and God knows the England team have been an underdog for decades.

It didn't last, however, as images of goading posters erected by English tabloids in Paris ahead of the game appeared on social media. With sanity regained, my bilious dislike of the England team was restored.

Having come within 180 minutes of lifting the World Cup and being declared a national treasure, England manager Gareth Southgate faced immediate demands for his removal following the defeat.

It's become the norm in sport that losing can't be down to bad luck but must have a fall guy and, in soccer, no position is as precarious as that of manager, where job security can be challenged following any loss.

There's one safe harbour for the world's sacked football managers where they're guaranteed to remain employed and on full pay irrespective of results.

They'll have all the perks and advantages of a high-paid, high-profile position without any need to worry they'll be held accountable for even the most lamentable failure. Guess the job...