This past couple of years, a lot of tongues have twisted around the issue of coaxing Stormont’s pol-iticians back into power.

Most recently, Chris Heaton-Harris – Britain’s double-barrelled Secretary of State – has taken his shot at getting Northern Irish politics out of a pickle.

At times it seemed the Member of Parliament for Daventry was ready to send the whole picnic bas-ket of local politicians to Coventry.

And then to leave the place sandwiched between London and Dublin’s rule.

But at the last minute, by a slice of fortune, Jeffrey Donaldson brought the Democratic Unionist Party back into government to earn their bread.

The whole world over, people watched – wondering why.

And now, exclusively, we are about to reveal how this loaves and fishes miracle came about, spurred on by events at the heart of London. (But not as you might expect, beneath Big Ben in Westminster.)

This adventure began in a place called Bloomsbury, near King’s Cross and Euston Stations, close to where W. B. Yeats once lived. And incidentally where he first got ‘friendly’ with Maud Gonne.

Against the echoes of such history, a cabinet table of university colleagues gathered in UCL’s Institute of Education bar. There begins a tale of how a group of men helped put a woman in her place.

Yes, in a roundabout way, my colleague’s last round of pints might have helped Michelle O’Neill take up her rightful position as Northern Ireland’s first-ever Catholic, Nationalist and Tyrone-supporting First Minister.

This is also a story that’s a bit like the 1998 film, ‘Sliding Doors’, starring Gwyneth Paltrow.

Any single change, at any point of the storyboard, from empty kegs to delayed trains, could have changed everything.

Changed utterly, as W. B. Yeats wrote of Easter, 1916. But thankfully, in this tongue-in-cheek tale, every wingbeat of ‘the butterfly effect’ worked perfectly, creating the tornado that swept Stormont back into business.

We’d gone for a drink because in this age of working from home, ever since the pandemic broke in late 2019, we don’t get to see one another that often.

So half a dozen of us got around a table. Then again, I suppose that always happens on monumental nights in Northern Irish politics.

But this time, when the history books are written, it’ll not be names like Paisley, Adams, McGuinness, Mowlam and Blair that the kids will learn about.

Being a friendly bunch, the heroes of this hour are all on first-name terms. Ayanna, Ariane, Cathy, Chris, Jess, me, the eponymous Pete of the tongue-twisting title, and Daphne (but not Lord Trimble’s wife).

Naturally in such situations, unless employed in Stormont from May, 2022 to last weekend, the conversation begins with chat about work. Then it shifts to other things, such as stories of Rock ‘N’ Roll.

No – I’m not saying that I got up and put on ‘The Wild Rover’ on the IOE bar jukebox.

Sure, as I have said before, the English are sick ‘n’ tired of what they see as Irish voices shouting, ‘No, nay, never no more.’

Rock ‘N’ Roll was a cat from the cathedral city of Canterbury. Once upon a time, he’d been a stray. But somewhere in middle age, he decommissioned the feral life, turning mainstream and domesticated.

Maybe he’d have fitted well into the cat-flap of Stormont’s chambers. Perhaps that funky feline’s true destiny was to end up as Northern Ireland’s equivalent of Downing Street’s Larry the Cat. We’ll never know.

As the evening drifted into a second pint, by pure coincidence, all the women headed home, leaving only three hardliners at the table: myself, the eponymous Pete, and Chris, servant to Rock N’ Roll.

Conversations now shifted from the localised battles of giving medication to cats, towards the simpler world of global politics.

First we spoke of Ukraine. And then, having failed to put that to rights, we crossed 1,500 miles in half a pint to the black seas of Belfast. There, we needed one more drink for the road.

I don’t actually remember if Pete proposed, ordered, bought or paid for the pints. But Chris and Paul don’t plough the same punch in a headline with pickle.

Rock ‘N’ Roll though might have a resounding ring to it!

Anyhow as the evening goes on, we shoot backwards, from Volodymyr Zelensky to names that are as hard to say poetically after the third pint; Emma Little-Pengelly and Eóin Tennyson.

By now, there are wives, cats and children to go home to. So that’s when I get up with a parting answer to the question asked what seemed like centuries ago: “When will that pickle all get sorted over there?”

Says I, “That might all depend on Jeffrey Donaldson.”

With such words, I headed off into the night – unaware of what was about to happen just around the corner.

On an evening that would lead to miracles, I was about to transubstantiate into Gwyneth Paltrow.

Somewhere down the transport line, I jumped through a set of sliding doors that then opened up again, as another passenger jumped through.

And there I was, dazzled by fate and my own famous last words.

Let’s just call him ‘Passenger X’ for security reasons, though I greeted him with his actual Christian name.

“Yes,” says he – probably surprised that anyone on London’s public transport system had picked him out, as if in a pub quiz picture round.

And perked up by Peter Puxon’s pints, I said that I was a Fermanagh exile in London.

Then I struck up a chat about politics (not cats).

That conversation was a good one as I boldly told Passenger X what “needs to be done” to get local politics out of a pickle.

And the whole thing ended with him promising “it will all get sorted in Stormont”.

So maybe in some small way, Peter Puxon’s pints and Rock ‘N’ Roll changed the course of history in a Sliding Doors moment.

But the next time I met up with my colleagues, I talked about Gwyneth Paltrow, an English Maud Gonne, and not Jeffrey Donaldson.

Sadly, I haven’t managed to meet her yet, which proves one thing.

A different bat, a different bowl, a different beat of the butterfly’s wings and the whole thing changes.

From Ayanna to Zelensky, there’s a lot of people to thank for Stormont’s sliding-door moment.

As Winston Churchill, who was said to be fond of the brandy, might have remarked: “Never has so much been owed to so many by a few pints.”

Paul Breen is @CharltonMen on Twitter/X.