Another day, another summit


Yesterday saw the meeting at Stormont of the British-Irish Council, the somewhat prosaic official name for what David Trimble, in an uncharacteristic fit of whimsy, wanted to call the Council of the Isles. This brought together the London and Dublin governments, the devolved administrations in Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff, and the Crown Dependencies. Whether any serious business happened at the Council I couldn’t tell you, because the main focus has been on Big Ian’s push to get more money out of El Gordo. This has not to date been successful. Our new overlord continues to mumble about £51.5bn, which is a biscuit above what we were getting anyway.

Meanwhile, the 26-county administration is putting a little bit of money in. Yes, Bertie wants to build a road to Derry. A road out of Derry might be more like it.

Anyway, now the Scotchies and Manxmen have gone home, and it’s ho! for Armagh and the North-South Ministerial Council. One presumes roads will be high on the agenda. Which kind of begs the question, why isn’t Jackie Healy Rae at the table? Nobody knows more about roads than Jackie.

These summits don’t tend to amount to much in the great scheme of things, but then in the Teddy Bear’s Head it’s all about symbolism. Sinn Féin Nua, for reasons best known to themselves, seem to regard the NSMC as an embryonic all-Ireland government, which might seem plausible if you look at it sideways, squint a bit, and assume anything unionists are paranoid about must be bringing us closer to the Republic. The unionists, for their part, have built up the east-west dimension as a counterweight to the NSMC.

It does sort of encapsulate the federal nature of our New Dispensation, doesn’t it? Both sides have to have an intergovernmental summit of their own, to make them feel nice and warm.


  1. Idris of Dungiven said,

    July 17, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    I’ve just been reading Wilford’s book, Aspects of the Belfast Agreement. The final chapter (each chapter is by an individual author, W. is the editor) is about the Agreement and the republic. It argues that the agreement can be read as providing either a set of institutions which one day could lead to a united Ireland, or as embodying the copper-fastening of partition. Which do you think is closer to the truth?

  2. splinteredsunrise said,

    July 17, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    It’s institutional ambiguity, isn’t it? This is the sort of thing that drove Bob McCartney mad. It both provides the institutions that could facilitate unity and ties republicanism into a partitionist settlement. Damn, those Brits are clever.

  3. Idris of Dungiven said,

    July 17, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Indeed. But given that Britain wants NI even less than the Free State does, what does that say about how the chips will fall over the coming decades?

  4. Andy Newman said,

    July 17, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Yet the fly in the ointment for Unionism is the possible unravelling of the British part of the arrangement.

    We now have the SNP in government in Edinburgh and Plaid in coalition in Cardiff.

    My own view is that having started on its current road then independence for Scotland is a question of time, both through gaining more appetite for it and the West Lothian question.

    There may then be an unseemly scramble from everyone not to end up with the six counties.

  5. Idris of Dungiven said,

    July 17, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Cue a large valentine card from Dublin to Belfast, reading ‘it’s OK, I’ll be your friend’?

  6. WorldbyStorm said,

    July 17, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Got to be honest. If it drove Bob McCartney mad (der) it can’t be all bad…

    Look what it ultimately did to the Cruiser…

    Andy, you might be right. To extend splinteredsunrises point, we seem to be getting a somewhat federated structure incorporating but not exclusive to the UK.

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