How unlucky can three people be?

You’ll not believe what they’re saying. Seriously. The word is that the southern government sent an invitation to the leader of the DUP, to come to an address by Pope Francis in Dublin Castle today. And of course, what happens? Murphy’s law. The very day that the address is being given by the Pope, Arlene “will be away with her family.”

Isn’t that desperate? The one day that the Pope is scheduled to speak, Arlene and her family had booked to be away. Say again, Virginia? Where is ‘away’? I don’t know. Probably somewhere nice an sunny… When did she book this family exodus? I really couldn’t say…No, I don’t know if she booked before or after the details of the Pope’s itinerary were made known. It must have been before, because Arlene says that ‘regretfully’ she’s away with her family. Which sort of hints she’s sorry to have missed the pontiff… Did she say she regretted missing him without laughing out loud? I have no idea. She wouldn’t have said it anyway, she’d have written her regrets. Maybe she was laughing hysterically with every word she wrote,. Or maybe tears of regret fell on the page of her response and soaked it.

Anyway, the Pope can hardly blame her. After all, he’s here to stress the importance of the family and Arlene is giving expression to that importance by being away with her family at the time he comes. Besides, what would they say in Cullybackey if they heard she was hobnobbing with old Red Socks?

In contrast, the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, Robin Swann, will not be away with his family when the Pope is making his address. He will be marching with his Black Preceptory…No, Virginia, this is not an African branch of the Orange Order. The Black Preceptory is the crème de la crème of the Orange Order. Upper rung. They don’t call each other “Brother”, as they do in the Orange Order. They address each other as “Sir Knight”. Top of the Orange world, you might say. So clearly Robin couldn’t let his fellow knights down. How embarrassing if, on Monday morning , they said “Robin Sir Knight – didn’t see you at the march on Saturday – were you sick or in a car crash maybe?” And Robin, being a truthful man, had to say “No, actually, Sir Knights. I was busy visiting Dublin to sit and listen to the Pope.”   There’d be some ruction, hi, if he had to say the likes of that. But he doesn’t have to, because he’s made his position clear. He’d rather be marching shoulder to shoulder with his fellow-Sir Knights than sitting listening to an Argentinian Pope spouting idolatrous nonsense out of him. Send a letter and tell them thanks but no thanks, we’ll send a substitute.

For one unionist leader to miss a meeting with the Pope is unfortunate; for two unionist leaders to miss out looks like carelessness. Still, at least the Alliance Party leader will go. That’s what Alliance are all about – openness and reconciliation. It’ll be nice to see Naomi Long putting some clear blue water between herself and the unionist parties. She’ll be there, take my …EH?

Oh no. What does she say? What bad luck. I’ll bet she’s raging she’ll miss it. Still, when it comes to the next election, nobody in unionist ranks will be able to point the finger and cry “There goes the flame-haired Pope-lover!” She’s sending a sub as well.

Wasn’t it fortunate a couple of years ago that Martin McGuinness hadn’t booked his family into a weekend in Donegal, the time he went and visited the queen of England? And equally lucky that Gerry Adams didn’t have a date with the lads in his poker school that would have clashed with that evening he met Prince Charles and had a chinwag?

There is clearly a hierarchy of luck, and the unfortunate unionist leaders appear to be stuck at the bottom. Tell you what –get a photographer to take a few pics at Croker or the Phoenix Park; we know there’s an honoured place waiting for them on the wall of unionist headquarters.



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