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Tuesday, 16 January 2007

The ballad of Paul Berry

Today we will take a brief break from Éire Nua (sighs of relief all round) for a special appeal. I invite you to consider the plight of this poor sap here, who has been having a hard time of it lately. This is Cllr Paul Berry MLA, representative of Newry/Armagh at Stormont and late of the Democratic Unionist Party.

Not so long ago, the baby-faced gospel singer (and when I say gospel, I mean Willie McCrea rather than Aretha) was one of the golden boys of the DUP. A big hit with the Paisleyite matrons, a pin-up for the teenagers, the youngest MLA in Stormont, a bright future ahead of him in the wacky world of the DUP. Then it all went pear-shaped, as Jim McDowell’s Sunday World scandal sheet revealed that Berry had had a close encounter with a male masseur of the gay persuasion. This episode caused grave consternation in the homosexual community, where questions were asked about what a respectable gay was doing letting his name be linked to a practitioner of a disreputable lifestyle like Democratic Unionism.

Seriously, though, the affair posed a bit of a problem for the fiercely homophobic DUP, which insists for religious reasons that its many gay members stay firmly closeted. Berry claimed he had only had an innocent sports massage, and I believe him, but the fundamentalists couldn’t tolerate the merest hint of suspicion falling on one of their own. Although Berry put up a valiant fight to remain in the DUP, even taking a court case to try and halt disciplinary proceeding, the party eventually succeeded in giving him the bum’s rush.

Since his enforced departure from the DUP, Berry had been keeping quiet. But now he has resurfaced, in high Jeff about the St Andrew’s Agreement, and is planning to run as an independent for Stormont. Probably he has been emboldened by Bob “Cream Bun” McCartney, who has been hurling brickbats at Big Ian up and down the province, and is trying to catalyse a slate of, erm, I suppose you would have to call them dissident unionists, who will be trying to outflank the DUP from the right. As ever when Chairman Bob is involved, this promises fun aplenty.

Will young Paul win against the odds, and give us an underdog story to warm the cockles? Not a fucking chance. But I’ll enjoy watching him try.

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