NOT much point in a House of Commons Early Day Motion, if the truth be told. They’re motions that are put forward without an allocated time and so very few EDMs are actually debated.

The UK Parliament website says their purpose is to “record the view of individual MPs or to draw attention to specific events or campaigns”. The DUP have put forward two EDMs in recent months. And what, you excitedly ask, might be inflaming the passion of the party above all else in these chaotic and uncertain times? The planet on fire? The return of rickets and scurvy among the poor? Rising hospitalisations for malnutrition? Hospital waiting lists?

Well, no actually. What’s to the forefront of the minds of the two DUP MPs who forwarded the EDMs are country and western bonfires and music. Sorry, country and western music and bonfires.

In March, Strangford MP Jim Shannon forwarded an Early Day Motion wishing Dolly Parton continued joy and happiness 50 years after the release of ‘I Will Always Love You’, a song which Jimbo revealed is a particular favourite of his wife. Now there are mischief-makers who suggest that rather than use precious parliamentary time on a maudlin ballad, Jim might more profitably have chosen to highlight the need for action to end the loyalist feud in his constituency. But Squinter’s pretty sure that the nursery staff who had to rush children indoors as a gang of masked men paraded by and the residents of petrol-bombed homes would much rather Jim turned his attention to Nashville, Tennessee, than Newtownards, Strangford.

And last week, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson put forward an EDM congratulating the builders of the “world’s biggest bonfire” at Craigyhill in Larne. Sammy noted that the bonfire is “a joint community effort involving both Protestants and Catholics” (stop sniggering at the back) and congratulated organisers for making sure that the place wasn’t too boggin’ even though the Council refused to provide bins. Sammy also said he believed “this amazing feat of engineering should be included in the Guinness Book of Records”.

Fair enough, the bonfire was built without permission; it had no insurance, no regulation, no licence and no health and safety clearance. But Squinter knows the pallet jockeys who toiled away despite the disapproving stare of officialdom will be eternally grateful for having received the Sammy Sausages Seal of Approval.
Could we have our first contestant, please?
Name: Blue Bin Boy.
Specialist subject: Terrorfests.
Your two minutes begin now: What is the largest Terrorfest on the island of Ireland? The West Belfast Terrorfest?
No, the Twelfth Terrorfest. How many IRA songs were sung at the West Belfast Terrorfest this year? Three thousand?
No, three. How many anti-Catholic pro-UVF/UDA songs are sung in the marching season? Three?
No, three thousand. How many IRA banners were flown at the West Belfast Terrorfest this year? Five?
No, none. How many UVF and UDA banners are carried on the Twelfth? Five?
No, five thousand. What kind of group are the UVF? Counter-terrorists?
No, terrorists. What was the profession of UVF officer and Shankill Butchers leader Lennie Murphy? Counter-Butcher?
No, serial killer. What did you say about your attendance at a UVF commemoration days after lashing out at an IRA commemoration? “A well deserved tribute to a fine man”?
No, you said it was “inconsistent and I’m honest about that.” When you were in Maghaberry, what wing did you ask to be transferred to shortly after being banged up? The Blue Bin wing?
No, the UVF wing. You said in a Belfast Telegraph interview “the loyalist people in the past had the right to take up what?” Origami?
No, “arms”. You attended a commemoration in June for Robert ‘Squeak’ Seymour, who was a member of which loyalist group? The Clonduff Cultural Bonfire Committee?
No, the UVF. You attended the Squeak commemoration in the company of Stephen ‘Mackers’ Matthews, who has been widely reported as holding what position in the East Belfast UVF? Treasurer?
No, leader. Stephen Nolan once described you as “A loyalist linked to the East Belfast what?” Rangers Supporters’ Club?
No, UVF. After you lambasted Michelle O’Neill’s “no alternative” comment, you told the News Letter that if the 1970s happened again the UVF would have what right? The right to a fair trial?
No, the right to fight back against the IRA. Have you attended – beep, beep – I’ve started so I’ll finish… have you attended any Terrorfests apart from loyalist Terrorfests? Yes, I attended the West Belfast Terrorfest.
SO, farewell, then, Simon Byrne (left), the Crossmaglen Rambo. After a week of circling the Land Rovers he’s emerged from behind the shields and the guns and the water cannon to wave the white flag, his epaulettes ripped off by Jeffrey Donaldson and his sword broken over the knee of Jim Allister in the courtyard of Tayto Castle.

It was sadly inevitable, of course, the gormless Englishman having been caught up in more controversies in recent times than BBCNI – the difference being that in this case somebody has finally stepped forward and taken responsibility.

Rarely has Squinter seen Loyal Ulster enjoy itself more, as every angry DUP/TUV word was fallen upon by a media smelling blood in the water. The blood they smelt, however, was not that of the unfortunate Simon, but that of deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, whose concern about the Sean Graham massacre memorial arrest which led to this sorry mess has been moulded into a threat to withdraw support from policing.

According to Policing Board “sources”, she “indicated” to Mr Byrne that she and her party would withdraw their support for policing if something wasn’t done about the decision by the PSNI to question some of those in attendance at the February 2021 commemoration. “Indicated”, is a rather unusual word to use when attempting to inform readers and viewers. Had she “said”, “threatened”, “promised” or “vowed” then we would be on fairly firm ground, but when Squinter was told that an anonymous person had told someone that someone else “indicated” something to another person, a fair amount of confusion inevitably arose.

Was the threat to withdraw policing “indicated” by the medium of dance, perhaps? Did the Mid-Ulster MLA engage in an elaborate mime to convey her thoughts to the police chief? Semaphore? Morse code? Sign language? The handy thing about the word “indicate” for the Policing Board sources is that it’s a win-win situation. If it turns out that Michelle said no such words, it can be argued that she “indicated” as much by the steely glint in her eye, the aggressive pointing of a finger, the uncompromising folding of her arms, the thinning of her lips. Yeah, she might not have said it in so many words, but...

As is so often the case with a media that is overwhelmingly unionist and for whom stories are approached from a determinedly unionist position, the narrative was one that had the main pro-union parties nodding with satisfaction: “Young constables” (always “young”); inadequate briefing; an aggressive crowd; clueless commanders; republican opportunists; two-tier policing. The reality, of course, as revealed by the transcript of the High Court ruling that the two officers had been unfairly disciplined, was anything but black and white.

And just as importantly, context was abandoned in the furious pursuit of divisive simplicity – the context being that the decision by the PSNI to insert themselves in the February 2021 massacre commemoration came just three days after another headline-grabbing  incident – one with infinitely more important and concerning implications for policing than a decision to discipline officers.

In Pitt Park in East Belfast, a crowd of around 25 masked and hooded UVF took to the streets. The gathering and the failure to socially distance were the least of the concerns of police on the ground – turned out the lads were mobilising to evict a family from their home. Now Squinter’s not what you would call a Gold Commander – he’s never directed policing operations from a command centre and he knows more about nuclear fission than he does about crowd control. But he has a vague idea that if a  crowd of black-clad paramilitaries takes over the streets with the intention of inflicting harm the policing response should not be to send a handful of officers to have a look, hitch their thumbs in their flak jackets and do nothing. Which is exactly what happened.

Not surprisingly, the police decision to cede control of the streets to a loyalist narco-gang didn’t go down well in nationalist circles, with serious questions being asked about the PSNI decision to have a whistle and a smoke while the UVF went about their business. And it was in this heated environment that two policemen came across a group that was, the High Court acknowledged, masked (in a good way), distanced, peaceful and dignified. We’re told the officers had no idea what the gathering was about, although Squinter’s been there time without number and it wouldn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to spot the tribute to the five Sean Grahams dead on the wall and the fenced memorial at the corner. And while it’s entirely possible that the two officers had heard nothing of the media storm over the Pitt Park incident, knowledge of the failure to act on that gathering would not have been necessary to understand that here was the perfect opportunity to do what was done at Pitt Park: Stand back, observe, gather video and act later if required.

If there’s another lockdown, Squinter suggests the Ormeau relatives dress in black, wear balaclavas and move the event to East Belfast. 
£2.50 for four slices of potato bread. That’s dear, isn’t it? Well, Squinter thought it was as he wandered a supermarket at 9.30 on Sunday morning in search of a few breakfast bits and bobs. (Not one of the big supermarkets, obvs, because they’re still closed on Sunday mornings so the Bible-worriers don’t have to get so upset about the swings being unchained.)

Squinter needs to ask because, while he doesn’t know about you lot any more, he’s totally flummoxed these days about prices every time he goes out for the messages (remember them?). 50 bob for a weekend staple like potato bread seemed a little excessive because he seems to remember that at some unspecified time (just pre-Covid as near as he can guess) he vaguely remembers paying around a quid for the same product. 

Figuring out whether something is dear or not is made significantly more complicated by the fact that Squinter usually does a big shop, which involves too many items to remember each individual price. And so when it comes to nipping out to get one or two things, the reality is brought more sharply into focus.

It got worse, for on the planned menu was the weekend staple of cheese on potato bread and as Squinter held his expensive tatie bread in his hand and scanned the dairy isle he was in for another cost-of-living wake-up call. 200 grams of his favourite mature cheddar – a rather modest-sized block – was £3.70, bringing the ingredients for a rather plain morning repast to six quid and twenty pence. Granted, the supermarket’s own-brand cheese was cheaper, but the thing about cheddar cheese, and mature cheddar cheese in particular, is – as any connoisseur will confirm – is that there are only two ways to make mature cheddar mature: time and additives. And since the old adage ‘time is money’ is nowhere more true than in the cheese factory, cheese that has been left to stand for a long time costs considerably more than cheese which has been shipped out on the day of manufacture.

Add to that the fact that cheaper cheese which is made to taste mature by the work of chemicals rather than the work of Old Father Time is a distinctly vinegary experience, Squinter invariably ends up shelling out a little bit more.

A few hours of diligent journalistic research (industry-speak for two minutes on Google) reveals that top of the list of staple products most affected by the breathtaking rise in the price of foodstuffs in recent years is... cheese. Potato bread isn’t on the list – mostly because there’s never a queue for the stuff in Cork, Birmingham, Cardiff or Aberdeen – but bread and grain products are top of the food group explosions along with dairy.
But of course when it comes to shopping we’re hardwired into familiar names and not groups and so as Squinter cruised the information superhighway (remember that?) he took a detour to find out which everyday branded items will give your purse or your wallet the biggest punishment beating. Feel free to turn this into an informal family quiz...

In the past few years one item that very few of us don’t have in our fridges has gone up in price by an eyewatering 53% – a full six per cent more than the second-placed item. And the winner/culprit is... roll of drums please... Heinz tomato ketchup (460g). You’ll pay somewhere around £3.80 for the medium-sized plastic bottle with the cap at the wrong end, which means that when you nipped out to the shop with your mask on during the first Covid lockdown you’d have been paying circa £1.65 to put the same item in your fridge. (We all keep our brown sauce and ketchup in the fridge, right?)

The list is quite an extensive one, so Squinter will keep this snippet of it to products that he buys on a regular basis.

JUSTA LIKE-A MAMA USED TO MAKE IT: Dolmio spaghetti sauce was one kitchen staple that soared in price

JUSTA LIKE-A MAMA USED TO MAKE IT: Dolmio spaghetti sauce was one kitchen staple that soared in price

Dolmio pasta sauce (above, 47% rise since 2020).
Heinz chicken soup (46% – not again, Heinz).
Colman’s mint sauce (44%).
Hellmann’s mayo (35%).
McCain frozen chips (34%).
Green Giant sweetcorn (30%).
Walkers crisps (26%).
McVitie’s ginger nut biscuits (22%).
Hovis medium loaf (22%).
Get your club card out – you’re gonna need it because that’s an expensive crisp sandwich. And if you like Heinz tomato ketchup on your chips then you’re almost better off going to the chippy, just as Sammy Sausages advised.
THE Orange Order dispatched an expeditionary force to the Tommy Robinson march at the London Cenotaph on Saturday. As the lads from the Rising Sons of Lenny LOL 1690 set off from Belfast Port with a brass band playing Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye, they leaned over the side of the departing Stena Voyager and blew kisses as the girls they left behind wept into their union jack hankies.

And as Our Boys woke in their hotel rooms on Saturday morning, knocking half-empty Buckie bottles from the bedside tables as they stretched sleepily to silence the alarms on their mobile phones, a kindly autumn sun flooded the waking city with the light of freedom and hope. The air was filled with friendly banter as the bandsmen tuned up in the street outside, resplendent in the uniforms that they thought they’d put away for the season until Suella called. Cheeky, chirpy patriots expressed their admiration of the band’s attire with typical Cockney humour:

“Oi, Paddy! Give us a ninety-nine and a slider, me old China.”

“A tub of cream and two bottles of semi-skimmed, milkman.”
ISRAEL’S Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday led the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, on a guided tour of the sites where Hamas slaughtered over a thousand people on October 7 – stopping at one stage to look suitably sombre at a baby’s cot.

hey say a week is a long time in politics, and nowhere has this maxim been more vividly illustrated than in the speed with which Musk has entered the good books of Tel Aviv. For it was only last week that the White House – provider-in-chief of the bombs being used to level Gaza – described as “hideous” an “anti-semitic” tweet from Musk propagating the ‘Great Replacement Theory’ beloved of far-right wingnuts who believe Jews are attempting by stealth to take over the world by replacing white Christians.

Musk incurred the wrath of the Biden administration when he responded to a tweet full of naked anti-immigrant hate and accusing Jewish communities of “pushing hatred against whites” with the words “actual truth.” But while this flagrant anti-semitic tweet caused anger and consternation in Washington DC, if it discombobulated anyone in the Israeli regime Squinter missed it, and by Monday any dissatisfaction with Musk’s words had been completely forgotten about as Netanyahu rolled out the red carpet for a guy that Israel’s biggest ally had dismissed as a hideous anti-semite.