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.