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Ashers verdict was correct... but with a little grace, solving this should have always been a piece of cake

By Lindy McDowell

Place ingredients in cake tin and bake at high temperature for four years. Remove from heat from time to time and place in a courthouse to be weighed up before returning to hot debate.

Finally place in highest level at Supreme Court setting. Remove and return once again to heated argument...

Was there ever a cake in history that has cost as much as the disputed Bert and Ernie buttercream-filled Victoria sponge?

By the time all sides have totted up the legal fees on this one the total bill will have been enough to buy a chain of bakeries. Or (just to underline the waste of it all) enough provisions to stock a legion of food banks.

I absolutely support the call for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

But I also think the Supreme Court verdict this week was the correct one. As the great Peter Tatchell, the gay rights crusader, has tweeted: "The law should not compel businesses to aid political messages."

And if you go into a shop named after a Biblical tribe renowned for their baking skills, you must assume they will have certain strongly-held religious beliefs. You don't have to agree with them to agree that they have a right to hold those views.

The problem with Northern Ireland is that it's slogans and symbolism that sustain us. In any argument we're always fixated with the superficial icing rather than the real substance beneath.

I've no doubt the people involved on both sides in this long drawn out bun fight over the 'gay cake' are decent people. But without re-running their respective arguments, neither side comes out of this looking well.

The cake case has trivialised the important and serious debate about same-sex marriage. By seizing upon it as a cause celebre, some sections of the gay lobby (not all, see above) have seemed unable to even countenance that, for once, this really is about that wider issue of free speech.

And the Ashers lobby has come across as equally entrenched and not a little self-righteous. That horrible, judgmental line about "love the sinner, hate the sin" has been churned out once again.

It isn't exactly a great advert for Christianity, this sort of sour, censorious, uncharitable stance. In cake terminology, it's more lemon than drizzle.

This week's verdict may have been the right one - but this was the wrong battle.

What is wrong with us in Northern Ireland that we can't just sit down and resolve our differences with grace and respect for others?

Why does it always, always have to end in stand-off, impasse, squaring up - and gargantuan legal bills for the taxpayer?

Of all the many bizarre battles we've had here, the squandering of a fortune on a fight over fondant icing has to count as one of the daftest.

Had the two sides sat down, chatted, listened to each other's position and agreed to disagree, a small fortune could have been saved. And so much bitterness avoided.

But as the closed doors of Stormont continue to show, there seems to be no appetite anywhere here for turning down the heat and trying to reach an accord that allows all parties to have their cake - and eat it.

I gave Strictly the kiss-off ages ago

A kiss is just a kiss, eh? Well, that’s not Strictly the case as we’ve discovered following the furore this week over two dancers on a reality TV show caught snogging by the Sun on Sunday.

Which, they should have had the wit to realise, would always have been a possibility given that the tabloids so enjoy searching for evidence of the Curse of Strictly — that catchy name they give to the annual phenomenon of professional dancer and contestant having a bit of a fling.

Actually, I think Strictly is a curse in another sense. I can’t stand it. There, I’ve said it. And yes, I know that I’m possibly the only person in the entire universe not entirely entranced by people lepping around in Day Glo netting, sequins and excess self-tan.

I’ve tuned in a couple of times, but between ditsy Claudia with the fringe tripping her and your man Tonioli, who always looks like he’s just sat on a wasp, I had to switch over.

Anyway, as we all know, the real drama is ex-curriculum. And this week it’s been Seann (with two ns) a little known comic being dumped by his girlfriend over that kiss with Katya who is married but whose husband appears more sanguine about it all.

The girlfriend has come across as dignified and has public support as well as the family cat.

Seann with the two ns, however, may be out on his nose this weekend when viewers get the chance to avenge his dreadful act of disloyalty/stupidity.

At least the furore has taken everybody’s mind off Brexit and borders — hard, soft or Chequered.

And Strictly bosses must be just loving the boost it will inevitably give their ratings.

For them, the Curse of Strictly is nothing of the sort.

President Kanye? Let’s hope not

Kanye West in the White House. As a guest this week. But in future? Who’s to say? There are similarities with the current incumbent.

Not least in the outsize ego department. It is a comical notion, the idea of the rapper-cum-clothes designer installed in the Kanye West Wing. Except that the man himself may actually see it as a possibility. Judging by his rant about Chinese imports to the US, he’s already given some thought to future economic policy. Kanye also accidentally revealed his iPhone password during the televised visit. Maybe not so prepared then, for the national security portfolio.

Banksy’s too cool to warm up to

I know we should love Banksy, the graffiti artist who does those clever stencil statements — one of which was recently sold at auction and immediately half-eaten by a shredder built into the frame.

This was interpreted as a statement by the artist against art being sold for big bucks. But, perhaps inevitably, the shredded piece is since said to have doubled in value. Old Banksy avoids the spotlight personally. But like shredded artwork, this just adds to his mystique. Doubtless he’s a genius at what he does. And currently, very cool. But a wee bit too calculating, I feel, to warm to.

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