THE entertainingly bizarre ‘Hold My Loyal Beer’ competition between the News Letter and the Belfast Telegraph ended in a draw this week as both estimable outlets decided that the biggest crime against the Precious Union© this week was the refusal by Dublin Airport to take down a lighthearted tweet about the British royal family.

Five days before Princess Kate of Wales revealed that she’s undergoing treatment for cancer, the airport mocked up a picture of Kate and William passing through the airport and added the line: “Great to see passengers looking so happy and relaxed this morning.” The tweet came in the midst of massive speculation about the whereabouts of the Princess and shortly after she got into a world of trouble for submitting a Photoshopped picture of herself and her childen in a bid to quell the very same speculation.

The BelTel featured a passionate call from political royalty for the post to be taken down:  TUV Councillor Allister Kyle, who’s from up round the Glens somewhere and was elected last year on the 10th and final count. Squinter first came across Allister when he recently complained that BBCNI was diverting funding to the GAA, believe it or not. The News Letter’s story on the outrage also featured the boul’ Cllr Kyle, who expanded on his loyal outrage by demanding an apology from the airport.

Did they but know it, the two newspapers are in danger of moralising themselves out of existence. Had the airport tweeted out the picture and caption after Kate’s announcement, had they made a joke about her non-appearance in the full knowledge that she was out of the public eye because of serious illness, then running scandalised pieces about insensitivity and insult would have been fully warranted. But they didn’t. They tweeted it out at a time when Twitter was alight with jokes and memes about a woman who’s a senior member of the royal family disappearing off the radar.

Which, when you think about it, was a state of affairs absolutely ripe for bants and giggles. We work hard, we pay our taxes and we fork out to keep Kate and her large and extended coterie of odd and unpredictable blueboods in the unimaginable luxury to which they have become accustomed. The least that we can expect in return is to be able to poke a bit of fun at the preposterous medieval charade whenever the chance presents itself. Which we do, in the perfectly reasonable assumption that there’s some sort of non-life-threatening reason for the princess’s no-show, one of the many scrapes that the Windsors get into with entertaining regularity: marital shenanigans; jealousy; spite; rage; stupidity.

And when, having made the jokes and cracked the cracks, we learn that the woman in question is in fact undergoing a personal crisis that not a single person on the planet outside her immediate family knew about, we’re shocked; we’re sorry to hear it; we hope she gets time and space to be allowed to deal with it. But it’s not our fault. We’re no more  bad people for finding humour in palace tableau than we are for finding humour in a sitcom or a stand-up comedy show. And retrospective and priggish demands for us to withdraw said jokes and cracks are a way of forcing us to accept that we acted out of malice. Which nobody did.

Of course, there’s a cohort of society which doesn’t indulge in speculation and levity as a harmless reaction to the world around us; there is a cohort of society which is paid to indulge in speculation and levity – and that cohort is the media. The same media which, if required to observe the same retrospective moralising that it demands of others, would have to wipe its entire back catalogue and would cease to function in the blink of a jaundiced eye.

Here’s a piece in the paper about a bloke off Coronation Street who the press pack thinks might be having it away on the side. Are prurient news articles and ribald features banned because there’s a tiny possibly he might tell us tomorrow he’s going in for a quadruple bypass?

Here’s a piece about a pop diva who’s reputed to treat her many minions like dirt. Are the endless column inches of contempt and righteous indignation to be spiked because she may well inform us tomorrow that she was a bit snappy with people because she’s only got six months to live?

Let’s keep our eye on the real sick joke here.

Ulster's mane men in a lather over latest EU insult

The trouble with an Irish Sea border
Is the threat of serious public disorder.
And deprived of British plant and bloom
Irish sausage barbecues loom.
But the cruellest cut from the vile EU
Is Loyal Ulster hotel shampoo.
For the end of the little plastic bottle
Means here comes Rome Rule at full throttle.
Now the question for the Jim and Jamie pair,
Is ‘How are we going to wash our hair?’
Granted Jim doesn’t need much froth,
As he washes his head with a plain facecloth.

KEEP YOUR HAIR ON: Jamie and Jim are unhappy about their crowning glories

KEEP YOUR HAIR ON: Jamie and Jim are unhappy about their crowning glories

 But he’s still got little tufts at the side
In which he takes enormous pride.
Now he won’t be able to work up a lather
Regardless of Jeffrey’s Lundy blather.
And Jamie too has little left,
Of flowing locks he’s near bereft.
(Perhaps on his next big courtroom gig
He’ll borrow the learned judge’s wig.)
Of suds Jim may have little need,
But he sticks to his anti-border creed.
On our behalf he fumes and smoulders,
‘We won’t surrender our Head and Shoulders!’
And Jamie bathing steamy and clammy,
May wash his hair with a leather chamois.
And yet he’ll rise at break of day,
And fight to save our Timotei.
It’s a mark of their extreme devotion
That they’ll battle for our tonsorial lotion,
And hairy loyal nerves they’ll soothe,
Even though their heads are smooth.

The blow to our collective locks,
Is one of many Protocol shocks.
We’ve watched them trash our east-west trade,
Now they’re after lock and braid.
But – calm! – we’ve got the master key,
The Kojak of the TUV.
And a guy whose thatch gets ever-thinner,
Donaghadee’s very own Yul Brynner.
Listen up Ursula von der Leyen,
Is this some kind of game you’re playin’?
They’re here to tell you that nobody messes
With Loyal Ulster’s lovely tresses.
For years these gentlemen   both stood tall
And lost the flag at City Hall.
And while they told us Ulster would never bend,
The Stormont boycott’s at an end.
But taking shampoo is much more serious,
It drives the brethren quite delirious.
This Pantene-subjugating charade
Means greasy hair for the Twelfth parade.
And if they let this insult stand
The shout will rise throughout the land,
‘You make steal our budgies and our mock our queen,
But you’ll never take our Maybelline!’