Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Salsa, cigars and Che Guevara - Cuba's just like Northern Ireland

Cuba, bonita Cuba! They've given us salsa, cigars and sexy Che Guevara T-shirts and what are we offering to send them? Sue Ramsey, Jim Wells and a committee clerk from Stor-mount (as so many people insist on calling it).

In years to come, I can just picture thousands of Cuban students strolling in the sun, sporting their Jim Wells T-shirts and reminiscing about the heroics of the clerk from Irlanda del Norte who started a revolution in 2012.

Well, okay, maybe not a revolution, but certainly a bit of a fracas at the airport when his baggage was found to be two kilos over the limit.

We're planning to go to Fidel Castro's home country to find out how how they manage to offer medical treatment so cheaply... eh, hello? Hola? Have you seen what they pay their doctors and nurses? £40 a month for a trained doctor? Might that not go some way to explaining how they keep the costs down?

While we're at it, why don't we send a delegation to India to see how they make chapatis or to the South Pole to see how they make ice cubes or to the United States of America to see how politicians make a hames of things... oh, no, we don't need to see that, we've got that one down pat already thanks.

Instead of blowing thousands of pounds on a trip to the Caribbean, we could use the money to employ half a dozen Cuban docto rs for years over here. Mind you, they might find that 40-odd pound a month won't get them far in this climate.

What would they make of it if they did land here? Well if they were to come next weekend, they'd probably feel right at home.

They hail from a country where traffic comes to a stop as the streets are filled with people making music, so I'm sure the Covenant commemorations would go some way to filling that gap.

Happy, smiling people, dancing rhythmically in the sunshine. Apart from the happy, smiling, dancing, rhythmic and sunshine parts - we've got it all!

We've so much in common - Cuba and Norn Iron.

Both are small islands.

Both are run by men with narrow agendas when it comes to religious and political ideology.

And both rely heavily on diminishing economic support from their erstwhile masters just to survive.

We should be grateful for some small differences.

Fidel Castro's speeches are generally around five or six hours long.

Peter Robinson tends to limit his to tight-lipped soundbites. His latest snipe about nationalists showing respect by calling Northern Ireland by its proper name is ironic, considering the fact that he himself seems incapable of pronouncing the word Ireland at all.

From his lips this country becomes "Naw-th'n Ah-lind". He and Stephen Nolan must've gone to the same Speech and Drama teacher as kids.

Materially, we are better off than the average Cuban. It's hard to buy some basics over there like soap, toothpaste, the Irish News.

But there is sunshine and an emphasis on real food, good wine and enjoyment.

Having seen the levels of good food, sunshine and enjoyment in many parts of Nawth'n Ahlind, it's no wonder Cubans live on average six years longer than we do.

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