Sometimes the Deputy First Minster will not take no for an answer. I suppose that is one of the reasons we picked him for that job. Working with the DUP means if you did take no for an answer then very little work would be done. So ignoring nos and getting on with the work becomes a habit. I saw this at close quarters when we were doing a bit of canvassing in the European election with outgoing MEP Bairbre de Brun. We were in North Belfast along with Gerry Kelly and Caral Ni Cuilin.
'Lets go to the Waterworks' Gerry suggested.
So we did. It was a bright sunny day. People were strolling in the park. Then the Deputy First Minister saw the water. He made a beeline towards it. I tried to stop him.
'No' I hissed so the hovering media would not hear me. The Deputy First Minister ignored me. I knew how Gregory Campbell, a particularly negative DUP minister must feel.
'No' I repeated.
'Cad miceart? Whats wrong?' Bairbre asked me.
I rushed on to try to intercept the Deputy First Minister.
'Its him' I said ' every time he sees water he tries to walk on it. Catch him.'
We were too slow. By now the Deputy First Minister was mid-stream. The media pack closed in on us. I had an instant recall of another election. On our nearest off shore island, Britain. Neil Kinnock was the leader of the British Labour Party and they were expected to romp home to electoral victory. Then he took a walk by the waterside. He and his wife Glynes. Neil Kinnock fell in. Made quite a splash. The Tories won the election. Labour lost.
Were we about to suffer a similar bad omen? Apparently oblivious to all this, the Deputy First Minister was enjoying himself. I knew I had to get him ashore. I looked for assistance to Gerry Kelly. He and Caral were engrossed in earnest conversation with some North Belfast burghers. They ignored me. I had another Gregory Campbell moment.
Undaunted Bairbre and I inched our way into the rapids. Then just as I was about to reach out to him the Deputy First Minister lost his footing. I knew in an instant what I had to do. I had to save him. And us. We could not risk a Neil Kinnock moment. Bravely I flung myself towards the Deputy First Minister. Bairbre looked skywards and breathed a prayer. A woman on the bank opposite screamed. She covered her childs eyes. For a split second the Deputy First Minister seemed to hang in mid air.
Then I seized him by the hand.
'You're safe' I told him.
'What balance' he said 'You are lucky I have such balance. You could have drowned.'
I said nothing. How could I? The best heroes are like that. Modest. Quiet. Unassuming. With dry feet. Just like the Deputy First Minister.