And it came to pass in the year 2007, that verily, the Lord came unto Noah, (who was now living in Ballymoney), and said, ‘Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see all manner of evils, terrorists in government and the end of all flesh before me. Build me another Ark and save two of every living thing, along with a few good Free Presbyterians.’ And lo, He gave Noah the CAD drawings, saying, ‘You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.’
Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark. ‘Noah!’ He roared, ‘I’m about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?’
‘Forgive me, Lord,’ begged Noah, ‘but things have changed. ‘I needed Building Control approval and I’ve been arguing with the Fire Brigade about the need for a sprinkler system. ‘My neighbours claim that I should have obtained planning permission for building the Ark in my garden because it is development of the site, even though in my view it is a temporary structure. We had to then go to appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission for a decision.
‘Once Seymour Sweeney saw what I was up to, he submitted alternative plans with the backing of the local MP, and you have no idea how hard it was convincing Paisley that you were actually on my side. ‘Then the Department of the Environment demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions to clear the passage for the Ark’s move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.
‘Getting the wood was another problem. All the decent trees have Tree Preservation Orders on them and we live in a Site of Special Scientific Interest set up in order to protect the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go! And in July I had to pay off racketeers as insurance against the local kids taking the wood for the Eleventh Night bonfire.
‘When I started gathering the animals, the USPCA sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space. They said if he spotted me with any pit bulls, I would never see the Ark float.
‘Nor was I aware that marching the animals on to the Ark two by two constituted a parade, so I had to apply to the Parades Commission for permission. They just couldn’t get their heads round the fact that the end of the world is nigh, and that telling people it was could maybe even have a positive effect on community relations.
‘Then the Borough Council, the DoE and the Rivers Authority ruled that I couldn’t build the Ark until they’d conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood. ‘I’m still trying to resolve a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission on how many disabled carpenters I’m supposed to hire for my building team. The trades unions say I can’t use my sons. They insist I have to hire only accredited workers with Ark-building experience.
‘Then Harland & Wolff stepped in, and said the project hadn’t been subject to normal tendering practices, as they hadn’t been allowed to present a business plan, so the whole thing went to judicial review. It didn’t help that the judge’s grandfather had worked on the Titanic and thought I was taking the piss.
‘To make matters worse, Customs and Excise seized all my assets, claiming I’m trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species. After several neighbours accused me of being ‘on drugs’, the Assets Recovery Agency took some persuading that I had managed to put this project together without any visible means of income after I said I was relying on divine intervention.
‘So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark.’
Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, ‘You mean you’re not going to destroy Northern Ireland?’
‘No,’ said the Lord. ‘The Northern Ireland Assembly beat me to it.’