KATIE Taylor had a tough fight last week but managed to defend her world lightweight championship and defeat Natasha Jonas in Manchester. Arlene Foster also had a tough fight but was not so lucky.

One minute she was smiling calmly, talking  about how talk of leadership challenges are to expected, they come and they go. Meanwhile, she had a country (sic) to run.  Then, wham, bam, a knock-out punch comes at her from nowhere, and when Arlene stops seeing stars she sees her leadership belt is gone.
 Why did the DUP decide to strip her of her title? Several reasons, some religious, some political. She abstained from that vote on providing therapy that would have made gays straight;  she  was ultimately responsible for the RHI scandal, even though she seemed to have weathered it at the time. But maybe the biggest reason was her attitude to the Protocol which put a border between Britain and  our little stateen. 
At first she insisted that talk of tweaking it was pointless, that the treacherous protocol simply had to go. Then when it became clear that Johnson wasn’t going to tear up an agreement he’d just made with the EU, Arlene seemed to weaken and suggest the Protocol might have its positive side. Well. Up with that DUP politicians in Stormont and Westminster would not put, and Arlene was gone. Forty-eight hours is a long time in politics.

So now what? Up until last week, any suggestion that Arlene might be  deposed was brushed aside on the grounds that there was nobody of sufficient stature to replace her. But the man who’s filling the frame as I write Is Edwin Poots.
Incidentally, isn’t it odd that a party with the word ‘Democratic’ in  its title chooses to elect its leader,  not in a vote by party membership, but by a tight little circle of DUP MPs and MLAs?
 Okay, so let’s assume Poots ascends the leadership throne. How do DUP politicians reckon he’ll be more successful than Arlene? Will the sight of Edwin paying a visit to Downing Street strike fear into Johnson’s heart and have him meekly accept orders from the new DUP boss?
Certainly Edwin is being sold as the man who’ll take a firmer line than Arlene. Alas and ochone, Edwin like his predecessors is doomed to discover that British PMs don’t mind using a handy Paddy, but once they’re finished with him, he gets tossed aside, maybe if s/he is lucky  onto the green benches of the Lords, but tossed aside nonetheless.
 In the meantime Edwin (or his rival the good knight Jeffrey) will know that he must quickly show that the DUP is made of tough stuff.  If he roars and pounds his chest , that  might help staunch the life-blood that’s seeping into the TUV, Jim Allister’s micro-party.

Unfortunately, that same chest-pounding will  send hundreds of DUP voters into the ready embrace of the Alliance Party.  Try it the other way round and tell people that the DUP is really a progressive party? When people have stopped laughing at that one, they’ll notice that the ranks of Jim Allister’s TUV have swollen significantly.  A dilemma indeed, Virginia.

So where will the Wheel of Fortune land the DUP in a year’s time? I have an uneasy feeling that Poots/Donaldson may push the Protocol to a messy climax which might mean the Executive collapses and a new Stormont election is called. Or maybe Britain will sigh and shut down Stormont and strike a joint-authority deal with the South of Ireland.
 Either way, buckle up. The coming months should provide some significant events and some historic blunders.
 Meanwhile, Arlene is still in recovery from the treachery of former friends. Níor brhis focal maith fiacail riamh. It would be a kind gesture  to send her a sympathy card. Everybody hurts.