Jake O’Kane: Our politics is so deeply dysfunctional that it’s now beyond satire

We’re stuck with Donaldson’s unstoppable idiocy Heaton-Harris’s immovable indifference

Jake O'Kane

Jake O'Kane

Jake is a comic, columnist and contrarian.

Political party's at Hillsborough Castle for talks with Chris Heaton-Harris
Hillsborough talks DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson failed to win over protesters from a teachers' trade union at the gates of Hillsborough Castle this week (Colm Lenaghan)

I’m presently out on my comedy tour, and this is the first time in 10 years where I’m doing virtually no political satire. I’ve decided things have reached such a level of dysfunction there’s no longer anything funny to be said.

I refuse to waste my time lampooning the feckless idiots masquerading as our MLAs, for while they may look like politicians elsewhere in their obligatory suits and ties, they are more like children at play dressing up.

A good example happened during the week when DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson faced protesting teachers at Hillsborough. In an exchange of views, Donaldson pointed out – in classic playground fashion – that while they had a mandate, his mandate was bigger.

The protestors could have pointed out that one of the DUP delegation, Emma Little-Pengelly, had no mandate at all, having lost the last time she stood for election.

She’s not alone, of course, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wasn’t elected to his position and the latest Tory foreign secretary, David Cameron, had to be rushed at breakneck speed through the House of Lords to take up his appointment.

Indeed, when you consider a fifth of MLAs during the 2011-2015 term of the Assembly were either co-opted or appointed, it makes you wonder why we bother having elections at all.

While such a democratic deficit would be outrageous in any other political institution, it doesn’t appear that peculiar in an Assembly which has lain empty for 10 of the 25 years of its existence.

Things finally came to a head on Thursday when public service workers went on strike, after their legitimate pay demands were rejected. It’s possible this will be the first of many such strikes, as the unstoppable idiocy of Jeffrey Donaldson continues to crash against the immovable indifference of Chris Heaton-Harris.

In an exchange of views with protesting teachers, Donaldson pointed out – in classic playground fashion – that while they had a mandate, his mandate was bigger. The protestors could have pointed out that one of the DUP delegation, Emma Little-Pengelly, had no mandate at all, having lost the last time she stood for election

The situation is exacerbated by the continuing psychodrama within DUP ranks and Donaldson’s seeming indecision and inability to face down the small cabal of ex-pat detractors in Westminster.

Donaldson appears to be reaping the karma of having walked out on David Trimble during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations. Having jumped ship to the DUP, his betrayal eventually led to Trimble’s resignation, something he may face in the near future.

For those hoping that either Sunak or Leo Varadkar will come to our rescue, this now seems highly unlikely.

Facing an upcoming general election with a resurgent Labour party and divisive infighting over his Rwanda policy, Sunak has little interest or investment in sorting out our difficulties. South of the border, Varadkar is also focused on pressing local issues such as immigration, housing and the steady rise in support for Sinn Féin. As so often in the past, we are once again cast adrift with no political leadership or direction, resulting in disastrous consequences for our society.

Just last week it was announced that hospital waiting lists in NI are now twice as long as those in the Republic, with over 281k people here waiting. These delays impact most severely on cancer patients, a fact highlighted by Cancer Focus NI chief executive Richard Spratt, who pointed out that recent statistics show “significant delays to diagnosis and treatment for almost two-thirds of those with urgent cancer referrals”.

The charity called for an immediate return of the Stormont Executive and Assembly and for the full funding and implementation of the Northern Ireland Cancer Strategy.

It would seem that the world has gone to hell in a handcart and, tragically, we’re all trapped in that cart.

Mr Trump appears at a caucus night party in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Donald Trump is back... but did he ever really go away? (Andrew Harnik/AP)
‘The Donald’ is back...

Mirroring our political dysfunction in the USA, ‘the Donald’ is back. Sadly, I’m not talking about Donald Duck but disgraced ex-president, Donald Trump. His massive win in Iowa’s Republican caucus looks to have put him in an unassailable position to be that party’s candidate in this year’s presidential election.

Considering ‘the Donald’ is facing 91 charges in four separate criminal cases makes his win even more surreal. Having been handed lemons, Donald has yet again made lemonade, pivoting his court appearances into free publicity by playing the victim and claiming martyrdom to the cause of making America great again, again.

With incumbent President Biden looking all his 81 years and teetering on the cusp of senility, there’s every chance the US could once again have a narcissistic nihilist as its commander in chief. Not that we’re in any position to pass judgment on any other nations’ politicians...