‘A Hot-Tipped Gunslinger, Darting For The kill’: Prime Time Brexit Drama Has Nation Gripped

When Arlene Foster tumbled down the stone stairs of Stormont last Monday afternoon she was practically gasping. Panting. She could have almost burst into song, channeling her inner Andrea Corr – “Go on. Go on…Leave me breathless!”

Word had come through of an imminent Brexit border deal that would grant Northern Ireland special status, separate from the rest of the United Kingdom. The DUP had practically come this close to a united Ireland and Arlene’s breathless expediency was because she was literally racing to stop it. “A big shock”, she’d later say.

There had been some confusion in Parliament Buildings from around midday, anyway. In fact it had been so long since some of the politicians had been in Stormont that they’d forgotten how to find their way out of the labyrinth of corridors back down to the entrance hall.


An unsure Spad had stopped to ask: “Where do we go from here?”

“Brexit, Stage Left!” shouted some wizened old wag.

Sinn Féin followed suit, down the grand descent to the microphones, but their line-up was unfamiliar. An Máistir Puipéad, Gearoid? Michelle? They were, unfortunately for the cameras, as láthair.

Duped by the Duppers, Theresa May now needed a few days to regroup from the “pretty significant disappointment” that sprouted in Brussels that afternoon. Further lyrics from that wonderful Corrs hit “Breathless” are almost prophetic when aligned to the PM’s difficulty with the DUP: “The daylight’s fading slowly, The time with you is standing still…The slightest touch and I feel weak…”

But May’s taken a punch, not a poke, from the DUP who possess the hardest hitter in the town right now. A cowgirl from Fermanagh gone wild (there’s even an Indian in this story, too). As news of the dodgy deal first broke, Foster’s hand grabbed the telephone out of its holster like a hot-tipped gunslinger, darting for the kill.


“I understand Mrs Foster told Theresa May that she would not be able to support such a deal”, Laura Kuenssberg said. Well, quite. The anti-divergence Regulators had arrived. Nate Dogg and Warren G would be proud.

But of course, as Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes said, “putting guns to people’s heads is never a sensible thing to do in politics.”

Foster’s no nonsense approach showed a ruthlessness that we know exists in her character – but was it reckless and dangerous? (It’s a good job that the Taoiseach described the eventual settlement as being “Politically bulletproof”!)

Leo Lionheart himself had been furious about being misled over that initial wee text on Monday afternoon. But by Tuesday his messages to Theresa had changed: “Ok, hon – I’ll give u some space.”

This was a gentler approach than that of stern Nicola Sturgeon, who, not wanting to miss the Scottish boat, had accosted the British Prime Minister online: @theresa_may WTF?! #OhNoYouDidnae


Then, progress. By Wednesday afternoon, Theresa and Leo were rumoured to be bordering on a steamy tête-à-tête on the telephone. The general consensus was that none of them like it too hard, with both preferring the soft approach instead. Indeed, by Thursday night the BBC had the headline ‘Irish PM expects new UK text in 24 hours’.

Sinn Féin was rather left by the wayside in the hullabaloo surrounding the dodging and dealing. They’re old hands at playing the waiting game though, and by the close of play on Friday a skeptical and cautious Michelle O’Neill snowed her face, seeking “a lot more clarity” and declaring that “this argument is not over.” We might get a row out of her yet!

The DUP’s national grandstanding has cast itself in the mould of Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars; bloated and blinded by self-importance, they were nearly caught unawares at the start of the week. It’s not too difficult to imagine Jabba the Dupp spread out across the front lawn of Stormont, twirling the keys to the Brexit door around a gnarled and twisted finger: “Come and get ‘em, boys”.

By Friday evening the terms of the final agreement on the border were starting to come under scrutiny by the press pack. “Surely all of this represents a soft breakfast- sorry! – Brexit?” asked UTV’s Mark Mallet, feeling hungry for more information. Keen to strike a healthier balance, the DUP’s Deputy Dodds replied. “We just want a Sensible Brexit.”


Cut to Jamie Delargy (that’s ‘Jamie Del-ar-gee…You Tee Vee…) who then gave the metaphor of the week: “Someone’s been given a Turkey for Christmas. The question is who’s going to be left holding the Squawking Bird afterwards?” #MikeDrop.

His colleague Tracey Magee, never to be found wanting on The Fringe of a discussion, called the final result “a masterclass in ambiguity and vagueness” but also one that had served its purpose of buying everyone more time and getting us through to the next Act in the Brexit performance i.e. By kicking the can down the road fudging it right up.

My father-in-law said in the midst of this week’s madness, “Ooh-errr… I’m in Brexit TV Heaven!”

Hell yes! Who knows how it will all play out? Just don’t touch that remote.

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