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30 October 2003 Edition

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The Fifth Column

Goodbye, Mr Chips?

WHATEVER happened to the Ulster Unionist Party's tantalising new symbol of a fish supper wrapped up in an old newspaper unveiled last week during Trimble's sabotage of historic events?

The image provoked much mirth among commentators. DUP leader Ian Paisley even awoke to snort that the Ulster Unionists would get a "battering" at the polls. Others wondered if the UUP were "codding" the people and whether it was a party that had "had its chips".

Since then, the eye-catching fish 'n' chips backdrop for the floundering UUP appears to have sunk without trace.

Maybe Steven King realises it was a crappie idea after all.

With friends like PDs

THE increasingly desperate SDLP has drawn up what insiders call its 'Stalingrad Strategy' to try and stall the advance of Sinn Féin.

And the SDLP is so strapped for talent that it has resorted to drafting in 'experts' not just from the 26-County Labour Party and the Blairite Labour Party but also the arch-Thatcherites of the cut-and-slash, anti-socialist Progressive Democrats!

At least the ideological debates within the SDLP should get interesting.

PUPpy love

"THE FEARS that exist in our communities that lead to racism need to be recognised and tackled," David Rose, the deputy leader of the UVF's political wing, told the annual conference of his Progressive Unionist Party.

"Loyalism and racism are not compatible."

Discuss.

British Army flies hijacker to Belfast

A TEENAGER who put a handgun to a man's head in England and pulled the trigger while trying to hijack his victim's motorbike has escaped jail - and is now serving in the Six Counties with the British Army.

Coventry Crown Court heard at the end of September how 17-year-old Anthony Craven's terrified victim thought the squaddie was going to fire the gun during his ordeal.

The drama happened on 26 June when Bernard Evans visited a friend's house in Coventry.

At 10pm, Craven, a soldier with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, went to the house and asked to speak to the owner of the Honda motorbike parked nearby. Evans came to the front door and the soldier pointed a gun at his temple and demanded the keys to the motorbike. Evans knocked the gun away from his head and Craven fled. As he made his escape, the frightened Fusilier fell over his feet.

But as he lay on the ground, Craven turned and went to pull the trigger, leaving his victim fearing for his life. He then fled the scene.

Craven, who was based at St George's Barracks, Oakham, Leicestershire, pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent but was given a community service sentence because of his age and because he had no previous convictions.

He has been allowed to keep his job in the British Army and he was flown out to do a 16-month tour of the Six Counties the day after his court case. His 100 hours community service will be done in the Six Counties.

Presiding Judge Cole said: "You would have terrified the person whose temple you held the weapon against. People who commit that type of offence inevitably go to prison for a long time but I have to take into account that you are only 17 years of age."

And let him loose with a real gun to use on Irish people.

Dedicated follower of fashion

LENIN is to get a change of suit after more than 60 years lying in the Moscow mausoleum.

Jibes that a certain 26-County Labour Party leader has changed his clothes fairly often and has also spent a good bit of time lying in Moscow mausoleums are enough to make Lenin turn in his grave.

Journalists are our friends

THE fairly small Socialist Alliance is stepping up its bid to woo the largely Tory press in Britain with some wishful thinking.

The left-wing network tells its cadres some of its tricks of the trade through the none-too confidential method of the website: "We need to use the press better. The busy journalist is our friend. Pitched in the right way, journalists may simply cut and paste our statements into their stories."

Leaving aside that somewhat dubious observation, Socialist Alliance PR gurus are given some sound tips that could have been culled from the Belfast Sinn Féin media machine.

Spokespersons are advised: "Brush your hair and wear a clean shirt if you're going on the telly."

And the following is destined to be written in to the job description of aspiring Sinn Féin media mandarins.

"A press officer needs to be level headed, literate, informed, motivated and have the ability to lay on a touch of schmooze. A press officer cannot be: (a) A maverick that represents themselves more than the branch; (b) Quick to anger and potentially destroy precious relationships with the press; (c) Drunk, stoned or otherwise unsuitable to be the public face of the local SA."

Sinn Féin press officers don't have to be told that, do they?

Break for the border

THE LOW-COST airline, Jet2.com, will now fly from Leeds Bradford to Belfast because, the carrier says: "Belfast is fast-becoming one of the most popular weekend break cities in the UK and, for many, is the 'new' Dublin".

Another step on the slippery runway to a united Ireland?

Rabbitte get your gun

"The relatively vague and technical terms used so far, which have done as much to suggest what was not decommissioned as what was, clearly fall far short of what Mr Trimble and his colleagues believed they were entitled to expect", opined Pat Rabbitte in the Dáil debate on the Peace Process last week. The Labour leader, formerly Democratic Left, New Agenda, Workers' Party, Sinn Féin the Workers Party, 'Official Sinn Féin' member might tell us how the 'Official IRA' put weapons beyond use. And we would be quite happy with even 'relatively vague' information.


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