Wednesday 16 October 2019

Billy Keane: 'This Halloween might not prove such a horror after all if Boris's mask drops at late-night talks'

Keane's Kingdom

'The Taoiseach is joined for a pint of the devil’s buttermilk by Boris, his new best pal. The megaphones are decommissioned.' Photo: Aaron Chown/Pool via Reuters
'The Taoiseach is joined for a pint of the devil’s buttermilk by Boris, his new best pal. The megaphones are decommissioned.' Photo: Aaron Chown/Pool via Reuters
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

There they'd be, worn out and beardy, after staying up all night at the negotiating.

The cameras zoom up several floors to where the talks are taking place. It's dark but for one wan yellowy light in the window of the parley block.

A shirt sleeved man flits quickly in the window. When the jackets are hanging on the backs of the chairs, it's a sure sign there is hard work going on.

The TV reporter looks earnestly in to the camera and says "there is still no deal, and the parties are in for a long night".

That's what usually happens when there's a big dispute being thrashed about, either in politics or industrial relations.

I often wonder if the parties to the dispute are really fighting over which season of 'Game of Thrones' they will watch on Netflix.

There's a poker school going on in the corner. Poker is great practice for politics, what with holding your cards close to your chest, bluffing and playing the hand you are dealt.

Every now and then, the press person is sent downstairs to the freezing cold journalists with an off-the-record briefing.

The press person says, confidentially, "this is a high-stakes game. The unionists don't know whether to stick or twist."

There is no word of a lie spoken. Pontoon is a big game in Tory/DUP circles. They never win. It's bust every time.

"Things are very bad," the press person says. "Leo caught Boris by the throat and Boris told Leo they would take back the Isle of Man."

One of the more erudite political journalists reminds the press person Britain already owns the Isle of Man. "Sorry about that," says the press person.

Boris must have mixed it up with Cobh. Ye are far too hard on Boris. Sure the Brits invaded so many countries, they lose track of who owns what. There's hardly a country they haven't broken up in to pieces.

One of the big problems was Boris was getting his history from the DUP. Boris has finally copped on. Up until recently he thought 1690 was the price of a nice bottle of Riesling in the 'offie'.

The off-the-record briefing is only a short relief from the waiting game. Katie Hannon wonders if she will ever see her native Kerry again.

Meanwhile upstairs, Arlene Foster asks if backstop is a word. The game of Scrabble is intense.

Fundamentalist Jim has banned whopping point-scoring words like samesexmarriage on the basis that there is no such thing allowed in the eyes of the one true God. In the North, it's the chosen people who pick God.

By the way, Fundamentalist Jim is none other than Jim Wells, a former DUP assembly minister. Last month Jim said he wouldn't be watching 'Strictly' any more because there was samesexdancing going on.

"Shush Jim, ya wee gom," says Arlene, "or you will upset Leo. He's alright is Leo. The teeshock is just a wee bit gay, and you wouldn't know he was gay at all if he didn't tell you he was."

The Taoiseach is joined for a pint of the devil's buttermilk by Boris, his new best pal. The upturned megaphones are decommissioned on the delf shelf. Common sense has prevailed.

This is another aspect of late-night, last-ditch negotiations that must be considered. The best of enemies become the best of friends. This is what happened on Good Friday. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness made up and chuckled.

The two 'PMs' tore each other to pieces for months and then comes the friendship. It's all part of the selling of the deal to the punters and the party.

The press person slips out quietly so as not to disturb the Netflix fest.

There is a consensus.

Season three of 'Love/Hate' was the best. The press pack are frozen with the cold. This is another plus for the politicians. The all-night treaty-making keeps the press awake, miserable, cold and storyless.

"There's good news," says the spin doctor. "We are making progress. The parties will get some and we are calling a press conference tomorrow in time for the 'News at One'. The last time this happened it was called the Good Friday Agreement. This one will be called 'Halloween 7' as 'Halloween' 1-6 has been taken up by a series of grisly movies. No one wants a return to violence."

It looks as if there is a deal in the making but you never know. Just when all seems done and dusted, someone comes up with a new twist. So far so good.

Upstairs the parties are making their way to the bedrooms.

They know it was the farmers who brought them here. It seems there will be a big milk spill if there isn't an agreement.

The DUP was told by the North's dairy farmers that all 3,000 of them could go out of business. The North has very limited dairy processing capacity. The DUP, for all its moral pugnacity, knows the milk of human kindness has turned sour.

In the meantime, all seems to be going well between Boris and Leo. Leo is on his second pint. Boris has had five.

Boris, who is not adverse to the dramatic gesture, may even wear a mask for Halloween.

Could it be he was wearing a mask all along? Is Boris finally aware that there will be an end to the peace if there is a hard Border? I think so. Hope so.

On a negative note, we must never underestimate the badly briefed Tories' ability to mismanage Ireland.

We got lucky with John Major and Tony Blair.

There will be some sort of an agreement but you never know what will happen with the DUP.

Still though, they are politicians and most politicians' primary duty, to themselves, is to get re-elected.

The Halloween Agreement may not be such a horror story after all.

Irish Independent

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