Mary Kelly: Sir Jeffrey says the DUP's talks with the government have made "insufficient progress"; others might call it "diddly squat"

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is in search of a fig leave to get the DUP back into Stormont. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is in search of a fig leave to get the DUP back into Stormont. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Unfortunately for Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the prime minister has completely run out of fig leaves, so he has none to offer to the DUP to enable it to slide back into Stormont, pretending it has won the Protocol Poker game.

Rishi has needed those leaves to cover the disastrous state of his own government, crumbling schools, rivers full of sewage, tanking economy and collapsing health service.

So he doesn't want another row with the European Union over a protocol that the British consider sorted, especially when the UK has just done a deal to get back into the multi-billion Horizon Europe scientific programme.

God only knows what the DUP's 'talks' with the government have elicited over the past number of months. Sir Jeffrey calls it "insufficient progress"; others might prefer "diddly squat".

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Now it seems the NIO has briefed the local parties that the government is preparing to take direct responsibility for implementing the Windsor Framework. So where does that leave the Duppers? Maybe up that famous creek without a paddle, but hey.

The bad news for JD is that he's painted himself and his colleagues into a corner. But the good news is that it doesn't matter how stupid the DUP's political strategy is because, as opinion polls suggest, their voters will still stick with them through thick and thin. But mainly thick.

He's hoping he can hold out until there's a general election in maybe late 2024, when the Labour Party start trying to loosen the Brexit noose. Maybe the British will embrace the single market and the Irish sea border will no longer be an issue.

If there was any integrity in the party, the DUP would be boycotting Westminster where the hated Windsor Framework was backed with a resounding majority. But they love swanning around London picking up their pay-packets. Besides, who would notice? Bit like the Stormont boycott, maybe.


I don't know if Russell Brand is a rapist. A court will ultimately decide. But I do know that he is a complete sleaze whose appallingly sexist behaviour has been condoned as "edgy" for far too long.

This man, who had the nerve to once say he supported the #MeToo movement that followed the exposure of the serial sex abuser, Harvey Weinstein, is now finding his loutish behaviour has caught up with him. He might not face a judge, but he's already been found guilty by the court of public opinion and his commercial backers are fleeing.

The BBC must be relieved they had sacked him back in 2008 when, egged on by the charmless Jonathan Ross, he made the obscene prank call to actor Andrew Sachs, boasting that he'd slept with his granddaughter.

I remember the fall-out afterwards, when BBC management performed their usual locking of the stable-door act. Not acknowledging that the real problem was management's obsequious kow-towing to the 'talent', the top brass launched a blizzard of useless compliance paperwork for radio and TV producers of every programme.

Even innocuous gardening programmes had to be 'complied', with a two-page form and the signature of a manager who had to listen or view in advance, to make sure nothing dodgy slipped by.

It was classic BBC over-reaction. But it did nothing to address the real problem in the media industry which is the lack of protection for young, zero hours contract staff whose job security depends on keeping the 'stars' happy by not rocking the boat.

Now former local Beeb boss, Peter Johnson, will be fretting over whether a BBC car was used to pick up the 16-year-old girl from school and drop her off at Brand's house. Auntie is not out of the woods yet.


They say you can choose your friends, but not your family, so choosing to go on holiday with your siblings and their partners for the first time could have been risky. But it was a blast.

Eight of us hired a house in a small village, not too far from Carcassonne, but well off the tourist trail. Once the local bar staff had established that we weren't, in fact, English they turned off the sound on the England rugby match when God Save the King rang out.

On our last night, the barman blasted out Amhrán na bhFiann from his laptop. The entente cordiale continued with large amounts of wine, top-ups for the brave drinking the local pastis, and a finale that included some pretty ropey Irish dancing, the Fields of Athenry and The Sash, in deference to our 'mixed company. I think we left an impression.