Northern Ireland

From the Beeb:

Mr Hain told the BBC on Monday: “I’ve just had news overnight that Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams are meeting for the very first time in their lives – the DUP, the Democratic Unionist Party, and Sinn Fein.

“This is something that defies the word breakthrough, it’s never happened before.”

Generally Norn Irish politics bores and frustrates me, but there’s something a wee bit exciting about this. I’d love to watch how it goes. Will they put chairs in the middle of the room, back-to-back, so they don’t have to make eye contact as they talk? Will Ian introduce himself with, “Look, I don’t like you, but Tony’s threatening to export me to Gitmo if we don’t talk.”

It would be lovely if they stopped all the silliness and got down to the business of politics!

I’ve seen one single piece of evidence that Paisley is capable of not being an idiot: his performance back in November 1996 when he was arguing that Northern Irish cows, given their geographical location, should be considered different to other British cows, and the ban on their export be lifted. He argued:

The only plan than we can adopt is realistically to face up to the fact that, if the ban is going to be broken, it will be broken only piecemeal. Hon. Members might not like to hear that. Nobody believes in the Union more than I do. The matter is not about setting one part of the United Kingdom against another. Frankly, if Scotland, England or Wales were in the position that we in Northern Ireland are in, I would be advocating that they immediately go ahead, start to move and get some water over the dam. If we get a break, we can bring others with us. Some hon. Members might not like Northern Ireland carrying the flag in this instance, but they will have to face up to it at the end of the day.

There’s another fragment which is easier to reconcile with the infamous Paisley accent:

I am not a vegetarian. I eat beef and like it. Beef eaters should eat Ulster beef, but if they cannot get Ulster beef, they should not forget Scottish or Yorkshire beef.

Now if only Adams and Paisley could focus on the things that matter and that presumably they can agree on—education, health care, the economy; that sort of thing—then maybe some progress can be made.