By Marcus Dysch
May 7, 2009
I anticipated numerous problems that could crop up on my trip to follow Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor around Belfast.
Getting locked in a toilet cubicle at Stormont, home of the Northern Ireland Assembly, was not one of them.
Having successfully negotiated the understandably tight security at the parliament building – you’ll remember Loyalist killer Michael Stone threatening to shoot a security guard in the lobby in 2006 – I was waiting for the Israeli delegation to arrive for their meetings.
I quickly nipped to the gents (all marble, 1920’s design, very smart) and, to my horror, moments later discovered the lock handle on the cubicle door had broken.
Unable to shift the bolt I faced a rather worrying dilemma.
Do I shout for help? Bit pathetic.
How about calling the press officer and begging to be rescued? Not the best way to introduce oneself.
Maybe I could climb over the top of the cubicle? I’ve only got short legs.
Images of spending the rest of the day locked in, missing the meetings and thus the story, raced through my mind.
After a good five minutes of door-rattling I heard footsteps. I rattled and banged around a little more. Then, a voice.
Thick Belfast accent: “Are yoo alright in there?”
Me: “Er, not exactly mate.”
Cue much hilarity and popping of heads over the top of the cubicle. A security guard duly arrived with a screwdriver to remove the lock’s panels on the front of the door.
They’ve seen all sorts at Stormont, but me stumbling, red-faced, out of the toilet seemed to provide no end of glee for the staff. On leaving the building some four hours later, a number of them were helpfully on hand to remind me of the highlight of their day. As if I could forget.
Thankfully the rest of the trip went well. Meeting Gerry Adams, walking with the Ambassador along Newtownards Road (a former sectarian flashpoint), and travelling in the police convoy all made for a thoroughly interesting day out.
But I rather fear my first visit to Northern Ireland will be remembered solely for one completely unpredictable and highly embarrassing moment.
I suppose it’ll be one to tell the grandkids…