On this very day in 1896, to promote the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, a head-on collision was staged between two trains. The publicity stunt – which drew people from far and wide to view it – backfired horribly, as the trains exploded on impact, flinging debris into the air and killing two spectators.
It was of this that we were most reminded as we contemplated our political leaders attempts at brinksmanship…
Take, for example Sammy Wilson. It emerged this week’s that Parliament will need to approve the £1bn ‘gift’ for the confidence and supply deal and HM Treasury claiming only a functioning Executive could get the cash.
Mr Wilson’s response was to threaten to pull out of his party’s confidence and supply deal with the Conservative Party – leaving HM Government vulnerable to collapse and another election.
But how likely is the party to make good on their threat? If they did, Labour’s momentum (geddit?) from the last General Election would likely be carried over, and the DUP might find themselves unwittingly handing Number 10 to a man they despise – ‘Comrade Corbyn’.
Elsewhere, a nicely-timed row over bilingual street signs in Mid Ulster drew attention to Sinn Féin’s case for an Irish Language Act. It’s a remarkable piece of political theatre – one party draws a red line they know the other will never agree to, then suggests that the ensuing stalemate is entirely the other’s fault!
Brinkmanship as a diplomatic tool can be extremely dangerous – as was memorably demonstrated during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In that crisis – as in the current Executive impasse – the concept of mutually assured destruction was very real.
Is that the path the DUP and Sinn Féin are set upon? Do they really want to set a path that will lead the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire to implement direct rule.
He certainly hinted at it on Wednesday evening. No Executive could result in stopping MLA’s pay and NI being governed from Westminster.
To be honest, thought, this week we were more interested in the progress of the Cassini probe, as it spiralled closer and closer to the end of its life within Saturn’s atmosphere. After all, both the probe and the talks are bound towards their demise – but at least Cassini’s fiery death will be a spectacle!