What’s happening across the Irish sea?
After the passage of ’42 days’ through the Commons, and the deal-that-never-was between Brown and the DUP, it struck me that how rarely Northern Ireland makes the news nowadays. Most of us in the UK grew up with nightly stories of the IRA, Bloody Sunday inquiries, Gerry Adams being voiced by actors, UVF revenge attacks, the Peace Process, Good Friday Agreements, and eventually power-sharing at Stormont. It occurred to me that Northern Ireland was now, joyfully perhaps, largely absent from our TV news bulletins.
So, given that today is the 318th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, ‘the Twelfth’ being one of the most significant dates in the annual calendar of Ulster, I thought I would bring to your attention some recent news stories emanating from the Six Counties.
The Arizona Republic writes that the Orange Order marches are at the crux of a new tourist strategy – the plan being to attract North Americans in particular to discover their cultural heritage.
The Irish times has a story about a gathering at the new Belfast office of broadcaster RTE to honour its editor Tommie Gorman – for Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson to share a stage as Taoiseach Brian Cowen spoke in Irish is noted as evidence of the enormous progress that has been made in recent years.
The BBC reports that former-Eastenders actor, now MEP, Michael Cashman has accused Iris Robinson MP (DUP – Strangford, and wife of NI First Minister Peter Robinson MP MLA) of encouraging “hatred and intolerance” through her recent remarks about homosexuality.
Finally, the BBC also claims that the Stormont assembly is on the verge of stalemate. Apparently, in seeking to get the DUP to agree measures around devolving policing and justice and passing an Irish Language Act, Sinn Fein are reluctant to co-operate in other areas of the legislative agenda. Questions are now being asked as to whether Sinn Fein are prepared to walk-out, forcing the devolved legislature to be dissolved, or whether this is simply hard negotiation by two sides who are experienced in defending intractable positions.
So, in spite of the slightly lower profile that the Province now takes on our screens, there is no shortage of intrigue and activity on the Northern Irish political scene.
UPDATE: A kind commenter, Rory from NI, has kindly drawn our attention to this excellent piece from Slugger O’Toole, asking whether a new devolved Justice Ministry could be a portfolio given to the non-aligned Alliance. As the current settlement demands that this go to one of the two biggest blocs (Unionist and Nationalist) it would require new legislation from Westminster to recognise the Alliance/Green/Independent as a party, but if that is the price that the DUP expect, then it is not anticipated that Brown or Woodward would refuse them