The ITLG visit to Ireland (and in particular Belfast) promises a lot but if nothing else it will be a witness to the birth of the newfound public bonhomie of First and deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness. Welcoming the members and guests of the ITLG in the Great Hall in Parliament buildings Stormont there was crack galore, ribbing, jesting, joshing and so on and so forth.
I say “public bonhomie”, because the vast majority of Northern Ireland’s political representatives get on better than well … off camera. I don’t know for sure what either man’s private attitude to the other was before last night, but I would take a guess that it had been pretty good. “Choreographed” I was told today. The appearance was the ITLG was all part of the elaborate two-step that is negotiation and politics. They had returned hot foot off the BD91 Heathrow/Belfast City having brokered the Policing and Justice budget and the first meeting between Mr. McGuinness and Mr. Cameron – historic enough some might say. Yes, it was heartening to see and … well some real belly laughs from the audience. “The reason I’m speaking for so long,” said FM. “Is because it means Martin has to speak for longer.” “The TV pilot being made at the Paint Hall is Her Majesty. It’s good to see Martin engaging with the Monarchy.” Good lines – funny lines – delivered with panache. “Peter steals my best lines,” quoth dFM. “That one about the Monarchy was one of mine from a speech at Queens.” (I think we all missed the pun there – or maybe it was just me). Good political lines worthy of … Tim McGarry or Damon Quinn. (Sims stops for a moment and sits back and wonders …).
I was historic – not big massive history written about and analysed for years to come. But it was history.