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Nothing or nobody is certain any more

(James Kelly, Irish News)

If, as Jonathan Swift wrote, the devil is the author of all confusion, he must be having a helluva time just now with confusion worse confounded on all sides, not least in our loony neverneverland.

As I write over here the whispers from behind closed doors or through the keyholes to the pol corrs is to watch out for an announcement about that crazy postponed assembly election... if not 'next week' then 'next year'!

So it's to be or not to be come Christmas, with still no word from the republican pimpernel

P O'Neill, ghost writer extraordinary to the IRA. Why are we waiting?

The Canadian general is back waiting for that night ride to an unknown destination where the rusty guns are dumped.

Trimble is waiting and Bush's man, Dr Haass, has told all concerned to get on with it.

Blair is waiting too, handling the November calendar with Thursdays and Saturdays earmarked with queries.

It's late, terribly late, after five years of Ulster devolution – mirage like appearing, disappearing and reappearing – as Adams and Trimble shadow boxed in London, Dublin, Washington and New York and finally shook hands out of sight in a room in Stormont.

There was no thunder and lightening at this much-hailed and long-delayed epoch-making event, just normality dropping silently like dew or drizzle over sad Belfast.

Up in north Belfast and over in London in contrast there was turmoil.

"Trouble, trouble, bubble, bubble."

Plots, conspiracies, feuds and tumbrils rolling.

From the Shankill gangland where the self-styled brigadiers rule supreme, 'Jimbo' Simpson, former UDA leader, was reported to have fled to England for fear of his life with the proceeds of a bank robbery which he refused to share out with the rest of the gangsters.

More are expected to follow as another feud looms.

Britain thus faces a new twist to its asylum problem with illegal refugees from the Balkans arriving in hundreds by covert means.

Fleeing so-called loyalists – like cut-throat white and 'mad dog' Adair's wife and friends – are now threatening hitherto quiet English neighbourhoods like Bolton with 'neighbours from hell', alias feuding gangsters from Norn Iron – some reputed near millionaires with the proceeds of crime.

question: Has the 'Bacardi' brigadier escaped the clutches of the much-publicised criminal assets basher, Inspector McQuillan, of whom we hear so little, in sharp contrast to his counterpart in Dublin where small fortunes have already been seized from the gangland czars?

Meantime, Westminster has little time for the pain-in-the-neck troublesome no men on this side of the Irish sea.

Both Blair and Tory leader, Duncan Smyth – better known as IDs – are up to their necks in plots and conspiracies to topple them.

The Labour cabinet is still uneasy over Chancellor Brown's Bournemouth attempted coup with talk of cabinet splits over proposed identity cards and the bungled Iraq invasion.

The Tory leader is in even worse shape after what he thought was a successful routing of his enemies at the Blackpool conference.

Suddenly he finds himself facing an official probe into a claim that he improperly employed his wife, Betsy, in his Westminster office.

He has branded the party conspirators behind what is now dubbed 'Betsygate' as "cowards in the shadows".

Describing this unexpected turn-up as a "Tory nightmare", the Daily Mail – in an editorial defending IDS – says "a once great party is being brought to its knees by a handful of plotters..."

Finally, turn to sport for this week's good news and bad...

Wonders never cease in these changed times.

I mean, visualise that brilliant scene in the great hall of the Stormont parliament buildings with the victorious Tyrone team celebrating its Sam Maguire cup triumph at Croke Park.

Nothing succeeds like success and the GAA is rightly cock-a-hoop for this bit of sporting history.

In contrast, the bosses of soccer's local IFA were understandably down in the dumps over the churlish behaviour of their international manager Sammy McIlroy – fleeing the local scene where he was a paid a whopping £90,000 a year for his dismal record of no goals.

Mournful Sammy did not think it was worth his while to tell the local association in advance that he was walking out on them to take over the job of manager of Stockport County, the lowest-rated club in the English second division.

The players, officials and fans were shocked, stunned and disgusted at Sammy's cavalier treatment.

October 20, 2003

This article appeared first in the October 18, 2003 edition of the Irish News.

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