MLAs came out of their political bunkers at Stormont on Monday as a talent competition for children melted hearts and cracked smiles all around.
The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) organises the annual Voice Box competition to ‘give voice’ to children with speech, language and communication needs.
Over 2,000 pupils entered this year - all submitting their best joke - with 20 finalists invited to Stormont to give a personal performance before a panel of judges and MLAs.
Seven-year-old Lily Barlow from Glencraig Integrated Primary School in Holywood took home the coveted prize of Voice Box Champion after telling her joke about an inflatable school, with an irresistible grin on her face and charming additional arm actions.
“An inflatable boy went to an inflatable school, with inflatable pupils and inflatable staff,” she began.
“One day he ran amok with a drawing pin. Pssssst! Psssssst! Pssssst! Psssssst!
“The deflated principal called him into her study and said, ‘you’ve let me down, you’ve let yourself down and you’ve let EVERYONE down!’”
Compere Eamonn Mallie also had a great time, insisting this year that MLAs participate, and pulling unsuspecting mothers and grandparents onto the stage to demand impromptu jokes.
However, sources advise the News Letter that the MLAs’ jokes were ‘not fit for purpose’, with the prize for the funniest politician going to the SDLP’s Mark H Durkhan.
He was awarded the prize just after lunchtime but by 5pm no one the News Letter spoke to had a clear recollection of how to tell his joke.
Sinn Fein’s Mitchel McLaughlin’s contribution was to pose the question: “Which biscuits can fly? The wee plain ones.”
The DUP’s Mervyn Storey also quizzed the children: “Which animal requires oil? Mice – because they squeak.”
Mr Mallie was effusive about MLAs’ enthusiasm and, in particular, the singing ability of quite a few.
The trio of Jim Wells (DUP), Danny Kennedy (UUP) and Karen McKevitt (SDLP) gave a rousing rendition of ‘Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea’, with Ms McKevitt taking the lead.