Robin Livingstone begins a new end-of-week column bringing another noisy five days gently to a close

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson wants the British government to “clarify” its position on how much it’s willing to put into Casement after the announcement by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this week that Dublin’s chipping in to the tune of €50 million.

That sounds too much like a rebel tune from the ship's orchestra as unionists scramble for life jackets on the deck of the doomed HMS Partition. The Jeff boy is too savvy to tell Leo where to stick his euro, but neither is he going to burst into a chorus of ‘We're On the One Road’, and so he knocked out a cautious, mildly suspicious response, generously conceding that Casement can have the funding it was promised 15 years ago (which, with inflation, interest and RHI taken into account is about enough to pay for a caravan in Millisle). But he added that he can’t see how London can come up with more moolah “at a time when other vital public services are in need of additional resource and capital allocations.”

A source close to the DUP leader said Sir Jeffrey hopes that warm-hearted Secretary of State Chris ‘Central’ Heaton-Harris would forget his promise to Gaeldom in May 2023 that “We’ll find the money, don’t you worry.”

The source added: “Sir Jeffrey feels that there are too many things that need money more than Casement. Replacing the Trident missiles we’ve lost in the sea, for instance. Paying for Michelle Mone’s yacht and her villa in Monaco. And think about this for a second: the money we’re going to waste on a state of the art sports stadium is enough to pay for at least another two empty apartment blocks in Rwanda.”

Stephen Nolan: Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown 

I’VE no idea who won and who's lost in the great battle of the airwaves between Cool FM and Stephen Nolan. The commercial radio station has cheekily claimed the title of ‘The Biggest Show in the (Non-Existent) Country’, the crown that Nolan some time ago placed on his own head while the Earl of Allister bowed deeply and gravely and Jester Jamie pranced around the throne, the bells on the toes of his wee pointy boots ringing out his delight.

LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU: Stephen Nolan's position as the King of Our Wee Country is under threat

LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU: Stephen Nolan's position as the King of Our Wee Country is under threat

I’m confused, no point in lying. The Rajar figures that reveal audience figures are so devilishly complicated they make abstract algebra look as reassuringly uncomplicated as a News Letter editorial on Casement. Indeed, so esoteric is the data collecting and publishing process that both sides have felt empowered to take to the stage and give Father Ted-style acceptance speeches.

Whatever the truth of the matter in relation to audience, it’s pretty clear that the days of domination by resource-rich Radio Ulster are over, whether Cool FM edges it or whether Nolan’s hanging on to his lead by the skin of his custard.

But while Ormeau Avenue head buck cat Adam Smyth clearly remains confident that the Cool FM hordes haven’t breached the gates of Castle Nolan just yet, I’d suggest to him that BBC Our Wee Country’s reliance on dense and virtually impenetrable Rajar data is fairly meaningless for as long as the Nolan Show continues not to be subject to the main rule of the wireless game as Squinter’s always understood it: that the news comes at the top of the hour.

For some strange reason, Good Morning Ulster, the breakfast time news show with a roster of presenters who seem to do as much laughing as they do reading, hands straight over to Nolan at 9am without a break for the news. It’s straight into the doom-laden Nolan theme music and that portentous English voice exhorting listeners to “Be the News” – a piece of advice which no listener has taken on board as enthusiastically and successfully as the presenter himself. This delay – and I stand to be corrected on this by industry experts – means that Nolan inherits the GMU audience. 

Doesn’t happen after Nolan hands over the Connor Phillips; doesn’t happen after Connor Phillips hands over to William Crawley and Talkback; doesn’t happen after William hands over to Qgo Duncan – and so on and so forth.

So, Mr Smyth. Or can I call you Adam? How about it? How’s about you either kill the idea that delaying the news at 9am is an advantage to the The Biggest Show in the Country (*Ts&Cs apply), or put the news back to 9am?

What’s the worst that can happen? The phones going boogaloo with the same three people?

Tel Aviv Keith wonders how the thing he said was fine came to pass

KEIR Starmer says he’s now calling for a ceasefire in Gaza because circumstances have changed. And what circumstances have changed exactly?, I hear you all cry.

Well, the Labour leader – whose new name, ‘Tel Aviv Keith’, has been trending on Twitter for five days now – dispatched Lieutenant Lisa Nandy to explain. Asked why her boss has finally found a heart, she said: “The humanitarian situation in Gaza has nearly collapsed.”

SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Keir Starmer said Israel has the right to block food and water

SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Keir Starmer said Israel has the right to block food and water

Might it be mischievous of me to suggest that Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian crisis because Israel has blocked food, water and fuel from entering for over months? And might it be churlish of me to point out that on October 11 Tel Aviv Keith stated categorically that Israel “has the right” to withhold the essentials of life from innocent civilians?

That being the case, who’s responsible for the humanitarian collapse, apart from Benjamin Netanyahu? Russia? Atlantis. The Moonies? International Rescue? Nope, that would be you, Keir. And everybody else who told Israel to crack on when they decided to get in touch with their inner Wehrmacht. 

Legal eagle Jamie has messed his nest again

•ERLING Haaland scored again for Man City.
•It’s late February and – surprise, surprise – there’s a quare stretch in the evenings.
•Donald Trump has said something else stupid.
•RTÉ’s still throwing money about like a drunk sailor on shore leave.
•Jamie Bryson lost again.

He’s a regular tonic, isn’t he, My Cousin Binny? War, disease, climate change, hunger, Piers Morgan – all of these grim realities are guaranteed to hurl even the most optimistic among us deep into the Slough of Despond; but when the Donaghadee Dynamo is around that gloom is dispelled in another blinding flash of sweetly sad ineptitude.

DÉJÀ-VU: Jamie Bryson explaining another legal reversal

DÉJÀ-VU: Jamie Bryson explaining another legal reversal

I’ve lost count of the legal battles he’s lost recently, but in true Chumbawamba style, he’s got back up again every time he’s been knocked down and thrown himself back into the legal fray. And the Duracell Bunny in him is now furiously beating that little drum again.

After it was announced this week that SDLP leader Colum Eastwood would not be prosecuted over a Derry dander on foot of a complaint by Bryson KC, and after Mr Eastwood’s legal team released a statement reminding us of Jamie’s many and hilarious adventures in Courtland, a furious Rumpole of the Failey immediately made complaints to the Attorney General, the Law Society, FIFA, Eurovision, the Samaritans, the World Bank, Elon Musk and Charlie Lawson.

As the poet once said:
Watch this space,
And keep a straight face.