I feel sorry for Peter Robinson, or Peter of Clontibret to give him his proper title. Not because he has to lead a party containing Nelson McCausland but because he finds himself in the position of the man behind the counter in the dead parrot sketch from Monty Python. You remember how that went. An irate John Cleese comes in to complain about the parrot he’s been sold: “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad. ‘E’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it!”. To which an increasingly desperate Mike Palin replies it’s not true, the parrot is alive – “He’s resting”. Eyes bulging, Cleese shouts ”Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now”.
Jim Allister knows a dead parrot when he sees one. Poor Peter/Palin swore those letters would have to be rescinded by a full public inquiry or he was resigning. What he’s got instead is a judge who’ll have no brief to look into the British policy of issuing the letters. Unionist insistence that the judgement on Downey should be reviewed? Ah no – that bird’s not for flying either. And remember how Peter/Palin assured the cameras that all those on-the-runs would now lie in bed sleepless, with his inquiry on the job? Just let fresh evidence come to light and they’d be in court before you could say Iris Robinson. He’s right there: that’s just what the letters said. So it’s reasonable to assume the OTRs will sleep pretty much as they’ve been sleeping up to now: nothing has changed from the information they were given in the letters.
But don’t expect Peter to admit the state of his parrot. He’s got just what he asked for, he insists – a lively-if-resting judicial bird with magnificent plumage. That’s why Arlene was waving her arms and rolling her eyes on the Nolan Show, and why Nigel Dodds was doing his nodding dog imitation behind Peter when he told the cameras how pleased he was. If you’re claiming a bird is alive, everybody else in the shop must stroke its lovely feathers and go “Oooh!” too.
You don’t think the comic sketch comparison works? Well, how about the Giro d’Italia? Peter ordered up pink lycra and a steel/aluminum/carbon flying machine. Instead he’s heading for the start in a malodorous sweat shirt, ripped shorts and a bone-shaker with training wheels. You’re absolutely right, Peter -life is far from fair. If by fair you mean the way dear old Basil used to run the store so many years ago.