Belfast Telegraph

United States is losing its taste for cleaning up after our mistakes

By Lindy McDowell

The US Ambassador to London appears not to be a fan of repetitive British cuisine. According to Matthew Barzun: "I must have had lamb and potatoes 180 times since I have been here. There are limits and I have reached them."

In a way, lucky old him. There are worse things than a mutton chop with mint sauce.

Just ask former Senator Gary Hart who is currently being asked to chow down on something even more unpalatable. Stormont grizzle and huff.

Poor Mr Hart is just the latest in a line of North American envoys and encouragers sent to try to chivvy along our endlessly juddering peace process.

He will have his work cut out with an Assembly which, to its eternal shame, is now squabbling over the health service.

Our so-called leaders only seem to be able to put on a show of unity when it involves a foreign jolly – or, as they prefer to term it, a fact-finding mission.

Given everything else that's happening in the world at the moment, you could understand why the US administration would be weary of us. How much longer can we take for granted their continuing interest in our affairs?

It's not as though they are short of problems of their own – both domestic and foreign.

On this 13th anniversary of 9/11, America still faces security challenges both within and outside its borders. Its homegrown woes have much to do with the nation's enduring romance with the gun, exemplified by that video that went viral recently, showing a little girl dressed in pink shorts accidentally shooting dead a weapons instructor as he tried to show her how to handle a machine gun.

There's a lot to be said for parents encouraging young children to try something a bit more adventurous than loom band weaving, but most of us would draw the line at letting them loose with heavy duty weaponry. It's a leap from My Little Pony to My Little Uzi.

What possessed the parents? And what does it say about the US that such classes are available to under-10s and nobody, seemingly, finds it all that shocking?

It puts into dark context the even more controversial shooting of Michael Brown, gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer who contends that he believed the unarmed man was about to attack him.

Brown was a big guy. And just minutes previously he'd been videoed stealing cigars from a shop and menacing a much smaller eyewitness.

But shooting him dead? It's hard to imagine how in a nation less trigger-happy than the US, the officer would have felt justified in using such deadly force.

Many insist the killing of Brown was racist. But this tragedy surely also owes much to a gun culture where weapons are commonplace and opening fire does not appear to be regarded as the option of absolute last resort.

Vying with these stories in US headlines has been, of course, the threat from outside, in particular from Islamic State. America is waking up to the fact that, as in Europe, the jihadists are now recruiting its own young citizens.

The possibility of a homegrown terror movement and this ready availability of weaponry surely constitutes a nightmare scenario for the US.

It is a haunting thought that the sort of violence the Washington administration has worked to bring an end to here could some day become a reality on the streets of America.

But even without reaching that point, how much longer can we expect US patience to hold with us here?

Our squabbling is now entirely eclipsed by other bigger, more dangerous global conflicts. Our politicians need to grow up.

They can't go on forever depending on their nanny from America.

Barry will always be champion to me

Speaking of his protege, world champion boxer Carl Frampton, manager Barry McGuigan says magnanimously: "He's twice the fighter I was. He could end up being the greatest Irish fighter ever."

Frampton deserves all praise. But for the modest McGuigan the title win has been an outstanding achievement too. He has made the not-especially-easy transition from champion himself, to champion-maker. Intelligent, gracious and hugely likeable, McGuigan has been key in steering his man to glory. And it says something about him that he chooses to pay such generous, self-effacing tribute.

Both manager and boxer – no wonder they're such an unbeatable team.

Jackanory story has no happy ending

A new book claims to have finally nabbed Jack the Ripper. DNA analysis of a shawl belonging to one of the victims apparently proves the culprit was a Polish immigrant long regarded as a suspect.

I'm not a lawyer but I imagine in a court of law the verdict may not be quite so watertight. What about the possibility of evidence contamination down the last 100 years?

Besides I always liked the line by one Ripperologist who suggested that on some celestial Day of Judgement when the real Jack's name is called and finally revealed to all the experts who have narrowed the list down to a small pool of much-discussed suspects, they will turn to each other in bafflement and ask "Who?".

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