North-south information sharing is big test for Sammy

The north-south ministerial council transacted some real business yesterday. You’d not be far wrong if you think NAMA sounds like a baby’s cry. In fact, it’s the Republic’s state bailiff for recovering what’s left of encumbered property assets. In one good, practical piece of north-south co-operation, the Republic’s government has pledged to take account of the disastrous impact deep discounting could have on the North’s fragile property market.

Green Party minister Eamon Ryan suggested in recent weeks that up to one-third of the affected loans could be in the North. But the proportion is thought to be less — possibly up to one-fifth. The value, according to different yardsticks, could be anywhere from €7bn to €18bn, based on their nominal worth and an “impaired” reassessment. The total writedown could thus be in the order of €10bn in a worst-case scenario.

The devil will be in the detail. Finance minister Brian Lenihan will “ share information in confidence” with his northern oppo Sammy Wilson to take action on the impaired loans “ in a co-ordinated way”. Yes, Sammy Wilson will be asked to keep commercial confidentiality. Expecting Sammy to keep his mouth shut for long will be a test of north-south relationship in itself.
All this practical, real life stuff came as a bit of culture shock to the Indy.

Alas, the stardust attached to these talking-shops has all but evaporated since the disbanding of the Chuckle Brothers North, Big Ian and Wee Martin, and the Chuckle Brothers South (Big Ian and OurBertie).

Gone are the days when every physical tic and verbal stutter from these pairings was anxiously scrutinised for signs that another road-block on the path to peace was imminent.

The Indy seemed to envy the latest bit of embarrassment over MPs’ expenses when it was left to the BBC to raise the question of Jeffrey’s hotel videos. But we had to wait until this morning for Jeffrey himself to answer the question everyone had in mind, but for some reason connected with lingering Irish puritanism, didn’t like to ask.

Back to the council meeting, there was good news about those roads, in spite of the

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London