“not perfect and not wholly democratic..”

The press conference following the events in Belfast today, live-streamed online at the time, was very interesting viewing. The politicians’ set-pieces are still online here. The BBC’s Mark Devenport picks up on the potential problem with Gordon Brown’s ‘pressie’

The Prime Minister did bring one pressie – telling the Executive they could keep the proceeds from sales of their assets to the tune of £2.2 billion. That’s double the current figure. But is this an enormously generous gesture or an injunction to sell off the family silver at a time when the market price is rock bottom?

Executive sources are sceptical about whether they can get anywhere near the £2.2 billion figure. What was clear from Sir David Varney’s recent report is that Belfast port is the big plum Whitehall believes can be plucked from the Executive’s tree. But Stormont ministers are far from certain this would be such a good idea.

The online clip doesn’t include the journalists’ questions at the end.. nor the moment when, just after Taoiseach Brian Cowen had expressed confidence in a stablity provided for through the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements which bind future governments to the agreed arrangements, NI First Minister Ian Paisley wandered off the feel-good script somewhat. Describing the current administration at Stormont as “not perfect and not wholly democratic, but the best [he] could get for the people of Northern Ireland”, Ian Paisley went on to express a desire to move towards more democratic structures sooner rather than later.. at which point the deputy First Minister intervened and called an end to the press conference citing other engagements for the political couple.