Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Will reporters put the boot into our MLAs at Stormont?

Pól Ó'Muirí, Belfast Telegraph

US President George W Bush takes cover from a pair of shoesIraqi journalist, Muntazer al-Zaidi, has become famous throughout the world after he threw his shoes at US president, George Bush, while also, for good measure, calling Bush a “dog”.

Naturally, one deplores this kind of behaviour — there is really no need to blacken the good name of dogs by comparing them to the man who invaded a country under false pretences and managed to kill thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians in the process.

To my knowledge, no dog has ever lead an army with such calamitous results to humans. Man’s best friend may well poop on the footpath every once in a while, but he usually does not launch artillery strikes on cities.

Still, Mr al-Zaidi — who may well have had his pan knocked in by the authorities after his shoe-throwing — has set a dangerous precedent. Will Ulster folk continue to be happy with, say, the BBC’s Noel Thompson, just grilling our political representatives or will they demand that he bangs a slipper on the table while they try to squirm out of answering his questions?

Should the NUJ now introduce a shoe-sliding scale for Stormont press conferences and allow journalists to throw gutties at MLAs but boots at Executive ministers?

Naturally, one would have to be careful not to introduce any sectarian element into the proceedings.

We may all be aware that yer man kicks with the other foot but, the real question in such a scenario, is which would be more appropriate to throw at his head — a right shoe for a Protestant and a left one for a Catholic?

And surely none of our politicians with a paramilitary background could object if a couple of jackboots were thrown in their direction? I mean, if the shoe fits

Of course, I realise that there may well be security implications for the PSNI were journalists to take shoes into their own hands. They will have to augment their flak jackets, Tazers, pepper spray, pistols and batons with a few packets of Odour Eaters.

However, I hope that the PSNI will offer our local politicians much better protection from flying footwear than the US Secret Service managed for president Bush. Let us not forget that al-Zaidi successfully managed to let fly with both of his shoes. That is probably the aspect of the affair that many will find most shocking.

Those of us who enjoy watching Clint Eastwood in In the Line of Fire know that Clint would happily take a slug for the president and that Clint does stop the evil assassin from taking out the prez in the end. (Looking back, one can see that the assassin’s problem lay in the fact that he tried to shoot the president rather than just flinging a deadly pair of stilettos.)

How disappointing it was to see that President Bush had to duck and try to bat away the in-bound shoes of al-Zaidi on his own. Why did no Secret Service agents throw themselves in front of Bush? Perhaps they thought it was beneath them?

Let us hope that future training for bodyguards includes the question: will you take a brogue for the president?

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