Tim McGarry: Paul Givan has quit — and they are talking of little else in Paris

Life, like Doug Beattie’s twitter feed, is often full of unpleasant surprises.

By Tim McGarry
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 6:46 am
Updated Thursday, 10th February 2022, 6:58 am
Tim McGarry, who writes a column for the News Letter every other Thursday.
Tim McGarry, who writes a column for the News Letter every other Thursday.

As the saying goes, nothing in life is certain, apart from death and taxes and Jim Allister being on the Nolan Show.

To this list we can now add the certainty that Stormont will be in a permanent state of instability.

Older people say that Christmas seems to arrive with increasing alacrity every year. With me it’s not Christmas, it’s Stormont crises. Is it really only two years since the last one? Who knows? Who cares?

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The DUP’s decision to remove Paul Givan as first minister would “concentrate minds” in Europe, claimed Gregory Campbell. But it is more than possible that the world has bigger problems than the occasional sausage being checked in Larne

Last Thursday the DUP did to Stormont what a Premier League footballer did to a cat.

To be fair when it comes to pulling down the Assembly, technically it is the DUP’s turn.

But, as with Brexit itself, I’m not sure the DUP have thought this through.

First of all, they’re actually starting to troll themselves.

I have only visited 24 of Ireland’s counties whereas in the film Belfast Dame Judi Dench’s accent visits all 32

Paul Givan announced the decision of the LCC, sorry, the DUP, to pull down Stormont. He did so in front of a banner emblazoned with the slogan “Let’s keep NI moving forward”.

This is the equivalent of Boris appearing at the despatch box in front of a banner with the words “Honesty is the best policy”.

Secondly, unionists claim that the protocol is costing us a fortune.

I’m not sure of the exact figures they quote but I think they estimate that we lose a gazillion badillion trillion pounds every three weeks, sorry, every three seconds. I’m not saying these numbers are exaggerated but their relationship with the truth is like my relationship with Scarlett Johansson — extremely distant.

And thirdly — will pulling out of Stormont actually work for the DUP?

When I was a young lawyer, many years ago, there was a famous story that did the rounds about a very pompous barrister who tried to embarrass and bully a man in the witness box.

The poor fella from North Antrim was trying to get compensation for a serious industrial injury. The issue in dispute was whether the company or the employee himself was to blame.

Our gallant claimant had manfully staggered through his evidence when counsel for the employer stood up to begin his cross-examination.

The well-heeled and highly educated QC adjusted his wig and flapped his gown ostentatiously before summoning all his oratorical skills and sternly demanding of the witness: “Are you aware of the legal doctrine of ‘volenti non fit injuria’?”

He pronounced each Latin syllable slowly and individually like a dagger to the heart of this poor man’s claim.

The witness hesitated. “Well?” roared the QC “It’s a simple question. Have you heard of ‘volenti non fit injuria’?

The witness sighed, looked straight at the QC and replied “Sir, in Cullybackey, they talk of little else.”

I was reminded of this on Monday night when I happened to come across Gregory Campbell — everyone’s favourite Derry Boy — on the TV.

Gregory said that the DUP’s decision to remove Paul Givan as first minister would “concentrate minds” in Europe as they continued the protocol negotiations. I’m not so sure.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps in Paris, Madrid and Berlin there is talk of little else and people in the boulevards, autobahns and calles are throwing their hands up in horror.

“Sacre bleu!

“Gott in Himmel!

“Ay caramba! Paul Givan has resigned!!!!”

But it is also more than possible that Europe and the world have bigger problems than the occasional sausage being checked in Larne.

Anyway, whilst we wait for our politicians to sort out their own self-created mess can I suggest we appoint Daithi MacGabhann as temporary joint first and deputy first minister.

He’s only five years old so he’s definitely up to the job. And he is guaranteed to always make us smile.

• In my last column I reviewed Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast without having seen it.

This was not a good idea.

I slagged the film off a bit for a laugh. So of course, almost inevitably, on Tuesday Belfast gained no less than seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Tiger’s Bay.

I have now seen the film and have thoroughly revised my original ill-informed opinion. Belfast is the perfect Northern Ireland film in that it divides opinion here.

Yes it is a little bit cheesy in places but it still made me cry. (Mind you I also cried at Paddington 2)

And I have only visited 24 of Ireland’s counties whereas Dame Judi Dench’s accent visits all 32.

On the other hand, Jude Hill is brilliant, Ciaran Hinds deserves all the plaudits he gets and Van Morrison’s songs are so good you can almost forgive him for his behaviour during lockdown.


• The Give My Head Peace Live stage show is on tour all over Northern Ireland from early March.

We will be everywhere from Larne to (London)Derry.

In the unlikely event that you have not yet bought your tickets can I respectfully ask you to please do so now because, well I have a gas bill to pay.

I also have children to put through University and quite frankly writing a column for the News Letter wouldn’t pay for a round of beers in the Students Union bar during Happy Hour.

Plus I can promise you laughs.

Lots of laughs.

One word of warning however — I have invited Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill to the show.

Well, they don’t have much on at the minute.