Well Jimmy, can you believe it? The fight we have all been waiting for is finally on! The 2 big hitters of the Northern Ireland political scene, Sinn Fein and the DUP are finally set to slug it our in a clash that has been dubbed 1690 vs 1916!
These two have been dancing around one another for years and there have been many skirmishes along the way but there was never a decisive victory that one could claim over the other. But here we are now and who could even begin to try and predict the outcome of this? The line has been drawn between them for the first time in over 40 years and the last election has ironically, strengthened bother their hands. Red hands at that! (That's just a little 'in' joke for the Ulster folk)
They have laid waste to the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists, those former giants of the political arena whose glory days now seem, sadly, behind them. How this will turn out, is anybody's guess!
In the green corner, we have Sinn Fein or the Shinners as they are affectionately known, thought not by the DUP!! Sinn Fein are the political wing of the now retired IRA. (they haven't gone away, ye know!) They were on the 'Catholic' side during the Troubles. They fought for many years in the 'armed struggle'...sorry, I have to apologise, it seems I got that wrong! They didn't fight but they 'supported' the armed struggle or as they called it 'the fight to free Ireland from the yoke of British Imperialism'. Although the DUP would have a lot more to say about that and still consider them a 'bunch of bloody terrorists!'. Okay, what a pair! This is hotting up to be the fight of the century, although I'm not entirely sure what century we're talking about, but the trash talk had been going on for years!
Anyway, they have now laid claim to the nationalist mandate in the North and have grown in political strength and confidence since the end of the Troubles. However, the big question remains - will they ever really have the confidence to get over the past or themselves and take the fight to the Wembley Stadium of politics (or should that be Croke Park!) the British Parliament???
The only all-Ireland party, they're also a growing political force across the border in the Irish Republic or their 'true' home and where last year, they fought the good fight against the introduction of water charges. A big pro-EU party, which is ironic considering their name and their history. Sinn Fein translates as 'ourselves alone' and they have fought for years against British rule in Ireland!
Their big date in the calendar is Easter when they have rallies and marches to commemorate the Easter Rising and last year was the biggie as it was the 100th anniversary. This was when Ireland started the fight that led to the founding of the Irish Free State. Strange that the Shinners seem quite happy to hand over the sovereignty of the country to the EU, the IMF and the World Bank after all that, but there you go...although, I think if truth be told, I think the Irish government have already done that!!
We don't really know how determined they are in their support for the EU, after all, it was that very same EU that imposed the water charges they fought so hard against recently!! There are a few theories on this, some say that since they are newcomers to the international political scene, they want to enjoy the ride on the old gravy train to Brussels for a while longer and don't want to give up the perks and benefits of the EU especially since they have only just got their snouts in the trough! Others think it's just the same old; whatever the DUP are for, they're against!
Anyway, whatever the reason, they have now moved up into the political heavy-weight class and there seems to be no one who can slow them down or stop them!! And that, ladies and gentlemen, are Sinnnn Feeeiiiinnnn!!
Over in the red corner, we have the DUP or the Dupers, as some like to call them and not affectionately at that! But don't mistake the 'red' in their corner for the colour of their politics because they are as far away from 'red' as you'll ever get!!
Stalwarts of the political scene in Northern Ireland, they have been around forever, going right back to the early days of the troubles. There are those who say there might not have been any troubles if that 'big mouth Paisley had shut up'. Not my words, Jimmy, just the word on the street...
Anyway, if any party ever gave credence to the saying, 'politics is showbiz for ugly people', then it's the DUP. Anti-EU, pro Brexit, they don't really need the trough of Brussels as they've just been given free rein to the British public purse. (Seems there was a magic money tree after all!!!) They were always able to depend on government support throughout the years of the Troubles, a reward for their staunch loyalty to all things British, even threatening the government when it seemed they weren't being British enough. We'll never forget the 3rd Force or the Anglo - Irish Agreement protests, will we, Jimmy?
The DUP were on the 'Protestant' side during the Troubles, albeit a very conservative right-wing version of Protestantism. They once refused to allow ELO to play in Ballymena as it was deemed to be too decadent! Kidding??? I wish I was!
Like Sinn Fein, there's a big day out in the calendar for the DUP too, the 12th of July! This is the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne when King William of Orange (Protestant) beat King James (Catholic) in a battle for the throne of England back in, yes, you've guessed it, 1690! And they've been celebrating ever since which is ironic as the DUP aren't exactly renowned for being party people! Another ironic fact about this is that King William (or Billy as he's also known) was, as one historian described, an 'avaricious homosexual'. The DUP are well know /get rid of former DUP rising star, Paul Berry when he was reported to have indulged in some 'compromising' behaviour in a hotel somewhere in Belfast, a few years back. Last seen, wandering in the political wasteland with a couple of unseated Ulster Unionists. Awwww, shame...
Anyway, there success in the recent Parliamentary election has added to their strength and power and they have teamed up with their natural allies...The KKK? No, not at all, the Tories! So, Arlene, has climbed into bed with Theresa (metaphorically, of course!) in the biggest act of political prostitution ever and the DUP are laughing all the way to the bank! Oh what a party!
Money is what the DUP are all about, (Protestant work ethic and all that) and they do love to spend it, especially when it isn't theirs! Always in the top rankings for MP's expenses, in 2015 the DUP took the top 2 places in the list with Jim Shannon claiming £205,798.23 and Ian Paisley Jnr, £195,247.59.
They're also involved in a bit of trouble back in Norn Iron at the moment, in the Cash for Ash scandal where they paid businesses £1.60 for every £1 spent in a heating renewal scheme that is set to cost the taxpayer £490m over 20 years! We won't even mention the Invest NI building, the most expensive rental property in Belfast at £25 a square foot which is going to cost the taxpayer another £120m also over 20 years! This property was built as part of a PFI scheme and here's the real joke, after 20 years, the property developer is still going to own the building! Oh, this is too much!! You couldn't make it up!!
So, we are now poised to watch the 2 heavy-weights of Northern Irish politics fight it out to the bitter end (cos no one does bitter like they do here!!) What do you think Jimmy, are the Shinners punching above their weight or will the brash newcomers take out the old dinosaurs!!
It's a tough one to call, Saint, Unionism isn't exactly known for standing their ground when it comes to a real fight, They ran away from an Irish Republic back in the day, too afraid to let go of the old apron strings of Britannia and still don't seem to have the bottle to take on a United Ireland and fight their corner.
Sinn Fein, I have to say, seem hungrier for success. For years, they liked to play the victim card blaming the British and the Unionists for repressing them but, changed times, Saint, and you can see their confidence growing with every election. Who, 20 years ago, would ever have thought the 'bad boys' of Irish Republicanism would ever sit in Stormont with the DUP? Or rather, the DUP would sit with them! It seems 'Never! Never! Never!' was only until big Ian got the top job and the big pay packet.
Still, it's a close one to call, Saint, but if I had to pick a winner, I would have to put my money on the Dupers. They've been doing the politics thing a lot longer and that experience has stood them in good stead in the past. And big Arlene, I'd think twice about tackling her myself, a tough old cookie or as they say in Ulster Scots, 'a grand big cuddy!'.
The Shinners might be younger and hungrier but they don't have the experience of the old dinosaurs and you have to ask yourself if they are capable of delivering that knock-out punch when needed.
Ok, Jimmy, thank-you for that and I have to agree and go with the DUP too. At the end of the day, they have the government on their side and as long as Theresa can hang on to power, they'll have the upper hand. Mind you, you know the old saying, 'a week is a long time in politics', and we've seen some storms in the past year with Brexit, Trump and Corbyn all defying the pollsters!
And as if things weren't hot enough, the 12th is just around the corner and we all know what that means! The old sectarian divisions will be ripped wide open again! Bonfires! Riots! And you won't believe this Jimmy, on top of all that, Linfield (Norn Iron's version of Rangers) are set to play Celtic on July 11th in Belfast!! What is going on in the world???
Hold on, Jimmy, I'm getting some news...just announced...apparently the Stormont Assembly is on hold, Sinn Fein are stalling over a promised Irish Language Act from Tony Bliar, sorry, Blair! But you know Norn Iron, you can't have one side getting something without the other getting something too, so the DUP are demanding equality of footing for Ulster Scots! See you, Jimmy! Ah hah, what a game!
There are rumours that the Shinners are really holding our so Arlene won't get to spend the big bribe...sorry, pay off...sorry, what is it then?? What? 'The price of strong and stable government'... Really? Is she still using that old line? Well, I never...
Hold on, more breaking news...it's...it's...it's all off!! Summer recess, they've all gone off on holiday to September.
So, what do we do now, Saint?
I'm f*cked if I know, Jimmy!