Tim McGarry: Forget Edwin Poots or Jeffrey Donaldson as DUP leader – choose me instead

The defenestration of Arlene was as brutal as it was brief.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 11:28 am
Updated Thursday, 6th May 2021, 11:41 am
Tim McGarry writes a column for the News Letter every other Thursday, but he has bigger plans - such as becoming DUP leader

I’ll miss Arlene and wish her well, but it was clear her day had come.

Thanks Arlene, for all the jokes. Jokes about chickens in bikinis, eggs you could buy pre-boiled and the RHI museum where the entrance fee was £1 but on the way out they gave you £1.60.

Now the leadership is a straight fight between Edwin and Jeffrey.

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I wish Arlene Foster well. Thanks for all the jokes. Such as the one about the RHI museum where the entrance fee was £1 but on the way out they gave you £1.60

They both share an office in Lisburn and to mark 100 years of Northern Ireland on Monday, the office has now been partitioned.

Just 35 or 36 people will decide who is the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. 36? Clearly the word ‘Democratic’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting.

On Monday Edwin said he had the backing of the electoral “college”. 36 is not so much a college, or even a lecture hall full of students, it’s barely a tutorial group — it’s more like the crowd you’d get at the matinee performance of a contemporary dance troupe in a theatre in Dungannon when Tyrone are playing Armagh at an Ulster Final.

36? That’s even less than the attendance at a TUV conference.

The brooding, sultry TV detective, and part-time scribbler for the News Letter, Sam McBride

Apparently there will be no public hustings and no public vote.

The leadership contest will be decided behind closed doors and we will simply be told who is the chosen one. I hate to draw parallels, but this is exactly how they elect popes.

Though to be fair the pope is probably a bit more socially liberal than either of the DUP candidates.

Unionism generally and the DUP in particular need a dramatic re-boot.

A 21st century recalibration and that can only come by having a dynamic, progressive and forward-thinking leader.

So with all the humility I can muster may I suggest that the DUP don’t elect Jeffrey or Edwin but instead elect me.

Fair enough I can see some obvious disadvantages. My commitment to maintaining the Union between Britain and NI is somewhat less that total. Indeed, it is frankly ambivalent bordering on “meh”.

But think of the advantages. Having a Papist – albeit a severely lapsed one – at the head of the DUP would be dramatic break with the past.

And I will immediately institute a 10 point plan of policies that will re-vitalise the party, broaden its appeal and secure the Union:

1- Party to be re-named the Democratic Unionist Party/Pairti Daonlathach na nAontachtoiri. (Editor- make sure you get the fadas right)

2- Edwin Poots to undergo a one to one tutorial with Brian Cox so that Brian can explain how old the earth is.

3- Party to write to EU and every voter in NI apologising for supporting Brexit.

4- Ian Paisley’s passport to be taken from him and kept at Party HQ.

5- Annual party conference to be held in a gay bar.

6- Party to prove it is British by adopting the same social policies as the rest of the UK.

7- Party to give unconditional support to NHS and BBC.

8- Sammy Wilson to be ordered to wear a mask for at least a year.

9- Centenary of Northern Ireland to be marked by a one day statutory holiday when all drinks in pubs will be at 1921 prices.

10- The party will collapse Stormont, but only if Cliftonville FC don’t win the Irish Cup

These reasonable and sensible policies would place the DUP firmly in the 21st century and allow it to concentrate on persuading the people it needs to persuade of the benefits of the Union.

Of course the party could reject all of these ideas in which case all I can say is that the DUP is likely to go the way of Line of Duty — in other words, it will end very badly.

• The brooding, sultry TV detective, and part-time scribbler for the News Letter, Sam McBride, was on the telly this week.

He and fellow investigative journalist Darragh McIntrye were re-examining the 2004 Northern Bank robbery.

So the BBC immediately ordered them to go to the nearest disused warehouse, get some pallets and bits of set left over from Line of Duty and then stare meaningfully in to the middle distance. This they did with great aplomb. All that was missing was a mysterious photo of Jimmy Nesbitt

Sam and Darragh are both excellent journalists. Their task was to find out if the IRA carried out the robbery. I won’t spoil the ending for you but this is a question as taxing as ‘Have Rangers been better than Celtic this year?’

The programme is well worth a watch, and Glenn Patterson’s superb 10 part Radio 4 documentary The Northern Bank Job is on BBC Sounds and definitely deserves a listen.

And if you’re in the mood for stimulating radio I can thoroughly recommend The Long and The Short It with Dr David Hume and myself on BBC Radio Ulster Saturdays at 12.30pm and on BBC Sounds. This week we’re discussing ‘Was Home Rule Rome Rule?’

The editor has allowed me to put in a shameless plug for my own show because my last article was brutally truncated — by accident.

Two hundred of my carefully crafted words simply disappeared from the print and early online version of my article. But it’s OK, I have been given a cast-iron assurance by the editor that this will never, ever, happen aga

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Alistair Bushe