Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Are any of our female leaders brave enough to rise to challenge set down by the priest at Lyra McKee’s funeral?

DUP leader Arlene Foster with Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill before the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast
DUP leader Arlene Foster with Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill before the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast
Lyra McKee
Emma Thompson
President Donald Trump

By Lindy McDowell

I've written in this column before about my one-time naive belief that come the day when we would have a preponderance of female politicians and female party leaders, it would be A Good Thing for local politics.

And look at just how well that has panned out, sisters.

Never before have we had so many women at the helm. And yet for over two years HMS Stormont has remained high and dry on the rock of total intransigence.

My belief that women leaders might make a difference around here wasn't, isn't, a sexist one. I don't think that women politicians are necessarily better than their male counterparts.

But I did always believe that they would bring something fresh and new to politics here (having been for so many years excluded from the top roles).

A willingness to compromise. To see the other's point of view. To focus more on the real concerns of voters here - health, education, employment opportunities - rather than on flags, symbolism and rallies with attendees dressed in uncoordinated camouflage and masks.

A little less testosterone, a little more empathy.

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As I say, more fool me for assuming all that.

And yet in this sad, sombre week there was a glimmer that maybe there could be a sea change.

Arlene speaking from the heart in the Creggan. And that image of her shaking hands with Mary Lou McDonald with what seemed to be genuine warmth on both sides.

There wasn't so much warmth in evidence between the pair at the funeral of young Lyra McKee. (Michelle O'Neill was also there sitting alongside her party leader to whom, in the context of local politics, she seems to have ceded the reins entirely.)

Perhaps it was just the solemnity of the occasion. They all looked awkward.

And never more so than in the stunning moment when that impassioned chastisement from Fr Martin Magill prompted the entire congregation to rise to their feet and applaud.

And with them the vast, vast majority of the people of this country.

"Why in God's name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get us to this point?"

If ever there was a spelling out of the responsibility those women shoulder as political leaders, that was it.

And to most of us it would seem like a question that would surely haunt their thoughts that night, prompt some self-examination, spur them to at least attempt some show of outreach.

By next morning both had been back on the airwaves, Mary Lou declaring no return to Stormont without a stand-alone Irish Language Act and Arlene insisting it could not be 5-0 to Sinn Fein.

Not an inch then.

So now we are to have yet more "talks" hosted by the British and Irish governments. Confirmation that local politicians can't even try to sort anything without their mammies and daddies from London and Dublin holding their hands.

Meanwhile it's not just the ongoing intransigence that is so galling. It's the arrogance. What about all those other parties? What about all their voters? The SDLP, the UUP, Alliance, the Greens? All disenfranchised as the two parties of the extreme continue their petty standoff.

Female leaders, I used to think, would understand that occasionally giving ground for the greater good does not actually make you look weak. It makes you look the bigger of the two protagonists.

People don't see it as blinking first when it's putting the country first.

Yet as this saddest of weeks draws to an end and the challenging words of the priest still echo, it's still as-you-were on the political impasse.

The question now - is there a leader big enough, brave enough and, yes, woman enough to make the right move?

Naked truth on TV 'peep shows'

There are very few issues of a personal nature which television believes can't be cured by nudity. And so to Naked Beach, the Channel 4 show which invites people with body confidence issues to... well, get naked on a beach. In front of a television audience of millions. Maybe those taking part are exhibitionists to begin with. But it does also seem to be a sad trend these days - turning the insecurities of the vulnerable into a TV peep show.

Emma’s acting high and mighty

Eyebrow-Raising Flight of the Week. The 5,000-plus air miles notched up by actress Emma Thompson so that she could join an eco protest in London and lecture the rest of us on... not flying so much. Still. Emma wasn't the only one guilty of double standards. How come all those plastic water bottles at the protest site? Also, re gluing yourself to Jeremy's fence etc - is glue (and the stuff needed to remove it) environmentally friendly?

President Trump might last another four years in power... but will his hair?

Hair is a bit of a barometer of the stresses of high office - and a very visible measurement of fleeting time.

Barack Obama entered the Oval Office with a head of dark hair. He left greyer than George Clooney.

Tony Blair was similarly dark-haired when he entered Downing Street. Within a few years he was white. Vladimir Putin came to power as a Slavic blond. Now he's just shiny.

Donald Trump isn't any different. His time in the White House has taken its toll too on a hairdo which was once a glorious bouffant of orange candyfloss. Now it's a few straggly bleached fronds combed over at the front and oddly almost a punk-style Mohican at the back.

Four years on, will Donald even have a hair on his head?

We may find out because, confusingly, the Democratic Party which will take him on in the next presidential race now has a bigger card of runners than the Grand National.

Leading the field is Joe Biden who this week entered the race with a television commercial promoting himself as the saviour of America. His words were accompanied by stirring movie music - it was a bit like the speech from Bruce Willis before he sets out to singlehandedly nuke the incoming asteroid.

Whether Trump gets his four-year hair extension is hard to call. But one thing you could never accuse the man of is immodesty. In that respect, where some of his would-be challengers are concerned, there's not a hair's breadth between them.

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