Seems a lovely chap, doesn't he? Fresh-faced, nicely-greying hair, tall, the kind of fellow who inspires confidence and even warmth. But then that's Owen Paterson's job. He's the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and it's his assigned role to project a pleasant front for the British government in this part of Ireland.
And he's not just nice-looking - he's nice-talking as well. Saying all sorts of cheerful, pleasant things. Like, the new British government won't be carving into the £9 billion they hand out every year so our little north-eastern statelet can stay afloat. Before the election, his boss David Cameron said that when he was elected, the first place he’d get stuck into when saving money was the north of Ireland, far too much public economy there. But Mr Paterson says that was all a mistake, what his boss Dave said was 'hijacked' and used for party political purposes. You got that? Dave didn't really mean it. Probably a joke that got misunderstood.
No, good Ulster people, fresh-faced, nice-haired, tall Mr Paterson says, your £9 billion is safe. We’ll keep sending it. At the same time, the north has "a huge dependency on public spending" and "that is completely unsustainable". I hope that's clear.
And to underline his uber-niceness, Owen ( I somehow feel the new British viceroy would like me to call him Owen) has talked about his monarch. As you'll see from an earlier blog, the monarch-in-waiting-and-waiting--and-waiting visited us here the other day, giving a section of our population an opportunity to wet themselves with excitement at the possibility of meeting an enormously wealthy man who hopes to become head of state, not by dint of anything he ever did, but by dint of the family he was born into. But I’m not talking about him. I’m talking about the Top Woman in this awfully lucky family. Not the Commander-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment but the Commander-in-Chief of the British armed services. The lot – Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force. Guns and tanks and fighter planes and battleships. She's their top person. Anyway, Owen thinks it would be "tremendous" if the monarch were to make an official visit the twenty-six counties, where she could meet the Irish president and her husband ( the Irish president's husband , that is – she has of course already met her own husband. His name's Philip. He's Greek.) What’s more, Owen says, his monarch "does have a bit of an interest in going to Coolmore stud". Owen appreciates and empathises with this no end because he's a horsey man himself. "I do compare notes on racing with the Taoiseach" he says.
So that's it, then. The north will still keep getting £9 billion a year, except that this kind of thing is unsustainable. Owen's monarch would have a tremendous time if she came to the south of Ireland, because she'd get to meet Mrs and Mr McAleese plus some busy stallions down at Coolmore stud. And Owen isn't just tall and nice-haired and attractive in a Toryboy charming way, he’s actually terribly like ordinary Irish people such as Brian Cowan because he likes betting on horses.
Listen to me, people, for God's sake. Isn’t it time we stopped this nonsense about wanting Britain to remove its 5,000 heavily-armed troops from the north-east corner of our country? And ceased this nineteenth-century nonsense about wanting a re-united and self-governing country? You’ve no idea how tremendously pleased Owen’s monarch, Owen’s monarch’s son AND Owen himself would be if we did. The past could be all forgotten, we could all hug then head for the races with Owen and Bertie and maybe Her Majesty and have a little flutter. What are we WAITING FOR?