FMdFM: “It was important that we were there and right that we were there…”

The First and deputy First Ministers continue their evasive response to criticism of their failure to accept their invitation to attend Pope Benedict XVI’s official welcome on the first-ever papal state visit to the UK.

One’s clinging to his political psychosis/comfort blanket, the other’s claiming they were double-booked.  That’s why you have junior ministers, guys.

As for the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister’s claim that he “also [has] some grounds for believing [a Papal visit to Ireland] could happen as soon as 2012”.  What grounds would those be?  Maybe 2016 would have been a safer bet?  Or maybe not…

As I said at the time

that’s what happens when you can’t meet the Pope/Queen without meeting the Queen/Pope…

And in the Belfast Telegraph, Ed Curran calls them on it

Both the First and deputy First Minister had an opportunity to demonstrate their support for Stormont’s shared future document, only recently endorsed for publication.

However, neither of them proved politically man enough to recognise the historic enormity of the Edinburgh gathering and they should not be allowed to escape censure.

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  • Pete, the OFMDFM ‘problem’ is par for the course.

    Minister Murphy sent some lesser DRD officials to welcome the Royal visitors to Rathlin Island whereas Minister Foster was there in person at the Giants Causeway.

    The SF chair of Moyle Council ‘delegated’ the task of welcoming the Royal visitors to her DUP vice-chair and used the pre-text of an alternative engagement too.

  • Dr Concitor

    I think the BT is spot on. I’m not really surprised at PR not going but I expected more of MMcG some how. I think it demonstrates that SF & DUP are 2 sides of the same coin. Both tribal and insular, not willing or able to move away from their past.

  • joeCanuck

    Thinking of the QUB story, they should both be awarded a First in political cowardice.

  • Pippakin

    Who would have thought that the two stars in the republican and unionist firmament would be a pair of cowards. Its not only great minds that think alike.

  • White Horse

    Sure it’s well known that British, loyalist and republican violence during the Troubes was imbued with cowardice. How else can you explain a campaign of war based on sneaking up on people?

  • Pippakin

    White Horse

    I dont. To me they all were, and still are, the worst sniveling cowards I have ever come across.

  • Alias

    The Pope isn’t going to come to Ireland in 2012 and risk undoing the Vatican’s good work in the UK by re-associating Catholicism with a bunch of paddies. That institution has a geo-political game to play unlike the local hacks in NI who are only concerned about pandering to their respective tribes.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I dont think theres a cat in hells chance that DFM McGuinness would be attending any state visit to the “UK” by anyone.
    In that context its a failure to attend.
    If Bakery is so anxious about it….why didnt he just phone up Stormont and sa “look guys…..Ill go”

  • joeCanuck

    Ill go

    Well, if either the pope or the queen came to my yard, I wouldn’t go out to greet either.
    Although being an obliging sort, if either had the need I would let them use my toilet.

  • Pete Baker


    As I’ve pointed out before, this wasn’t a personal or party political invitation.

    It was an invitation to the First and deputy First Ministers of a constituent part of the UK to the official welcome of Pope Benedict XVI on the first ever papal state visit to the UK.

  • joeCanuck

    I know, Pete. And it was disgraceful and disrespectful that neither went or, at the barest minimum, sent a deputy.

  • Pippakin

    The FMDFM are meant to represent ALL of the people. Those two charlatans have managed not to represent ANY of them. It would be a good thing if between the two of them they managed to grow a pair.

  • joeCanuck

    My personal views of either of them is neither here nor there. But, on reflection, if the “ticket” had been offered to me, I might have taken it. After all, I went to an interview in London 30 years ago just to get a paid trip there for me and my wife and ended up ijn Canada, which I like.

  • Dixie

    You have hit it on the nail Pete, they both let their personal feelings take over from their obligations of office. They should have attended in their roles of first and deputy first ministers.
    How can we ever resolve the Parades issue and the (Ardoyne) riots that followed when the two leaders of NI couldn’t attend the official welcome of the Pope. What a poor example they set to the rest of the community on respecting the culture and traditions of both communities.

  • Dixie

    Interesting wee tape of Marty and John Hume in 1972.

    Oh how times have changed……Marty became John.

  • Diomedes

    The understaning at the palace was that Mr Robinson would be attending, and they issued briefing notes to that effect. What led them to that understanding? Or was it merely the result of a clerical error?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    As our entire Peace Process/Agreement is based on the fact that our Society is hopelessly divided then it makes perfect sense that neither should go.
    Maybe the voters will be as outraged as Mr Baker and insist that we have a FM/DFM who would have accepted an invitation…….but Im not holding my breath.
    Pope Benedict lives in Rome……and should anyone from Norn Iron……want to see him……hes prolly available there. Dont all rush……or maybe nobodys really that outraged at all.

  • Dr Concitor

    “As our entire Peace Process/Agreement is based on the fact that our Society is hopelessly divided”. May be true, but some of us cherish the hope that this can change

  • Dixie

    How can two posters have the same name? And I was here first…

  • Dixie

    O excuse me Dixie mark 2, we couldn’t have that… just for the sake of interest how do you know you were the first?

  • Tweedybird

    Changed my name Dixie, wouldn’t the rest of the sluggers to get us confused….. 🙂

  • Dixie Elliott

    There is that better?

  • Dixie Elliott

    Oh by the way no relation to the new manager of the Unionist Party…

  • “What grounds would those be?”

    The 50th International Eucharistic Congress due to be held in Dublin in 2012. At this stage I would say he odds-on to make an appearance.

  • JimRoche

    Any picture of Robinson with the Pope would have gone straight into TUV election literature. Any picture of McGuinness with the Queen would have gone straight to dissident recruiting websites. Fending off the anti-agreement extremists is simply more important than satisfying the delusions of normality in the middle. If you want somebody who will meet meet the Queen vote for the people who swore loyalty to her on the nationalist side.

    If you want somebody who will meet the Pope then don’t vote for any unionist because none of them would have gone.

  • fin

    If it was a State visit to the UK why didn’t it include NI and Armagh, there are after all more RCs in NI than in Scotland, and I think the entire RC population in England and Wales is 5-6m out of 60m.

    Did Cardinal Brady the spiritual leader of RCs in NI meet the Pope on his visit.

    It seems quite rude of HMG to arrange for the Pope to visit the Catholic church of Scotland and the Catholic church of England and Wales but not of Ireland, frankly thats not a State visit to the UK its a visit to GB

  • Mike

    Trimble went to meet John Paul II, so what makes you so sure?

  • “It seems quite rude of HMG to arrange for the Pope to visit the Catholic church of Scotland and the Catholic church of England and Wales but not of Ireland, frankly thats not a State visit to the UK its a visit to GB”

    Then you misunderstand the nature of the visit and the Church structure. The Brit government may have hosted a state visit but that entailed only the bit with Liz Windsor, it had nothing to do with the pastoral nature of the visit which was handled by the Church.

    The Catholic Church in Ireland (all Ireland) is organised on a 32 county basis and is completely separate from the Church in Scotland or England & Wales.

    Brady met the Pope in his capacity as the leader of the Church in Ireland, not NI, as one might drop into a neighbours house to welcome an overseas visitor. He was not central to the visit in any way.

  • quality

    It’s sad that Ministerial presence at the Committee wasn’t enough to press Members to really question OFMdFM on spending, particularly the creation of a near useless (but expensive!) Commissioner for Older People (Tom Elliot was the only person who made reference to this)

    Instead, we had Delores Kelly asking questions about the Pope (let’s face it, not really at all relevant, I could care less… her entire line of questioning was clearly a politically snip at SF… in a legislation scrunity Committee), Trevor Clarke and Martina Anderson bickering over RUC/IRA victims families, Francie Molloy being extremely rude to the clerk over documents not being trilingual etc etc. What a shower.

  • fin

    Ulick, is Brady not the spiritual leader of RCs in NI, if he is and it was a state visit he should have been presented as such, and as the RC Church in the UK is divided into 3 the Pope should have visited all three and just 2

  • Granni Trixie

    It is a shame that the FM and DFM just did not do a professional job ensuring that NI was represented at an event which had worldwide interest.

    However, what people seem to miss in analysing the significance of theirin effect ignoring it, is that for MMG this was a double whammy event. The Papacy is no friend of physical force republicans: “on his knees” the last Pope begged “the men nof violence” to lay down their arms. The didn’t appear to listen at the time.

    In this new context where arms have (largely) been laid to rest,MMG could have mended bridges with the Vatican not to mention ‘normalising’ relations with the Queen, especially as the ROI has signalled improved relations by extending an invitiation to her to visit next year.

    wWhat seems to be misswed is that

  • Granni Trixie

    Please ignore last line – technical prob.

  • quality

    Would you not say that (even though it was a pretty lame excuse) relationships with the NYSE are ultimately more important than those with the Pope or the Queen for the future of NI?

    Ultimately neither man could have gone, else they be politically ridiculed, I don’t understand the fuss – did anyone really expect them to go? Nearing an election? SDLP sniping yesterday should be seen for what it is, a waste of time in a supposed legislative scrutiny Committee.

  • Granni Trixie Leaders always have to prioritise. To many it was important that NI was represented at the event. Symbols have their place . Our politicans are supposed to have a commitment to a ‘sharing’ policy, they are supposed to model “good bahaviour”. Instead they modelled bad behviour, bad judgement ie an own goal.

    This kind of attention to symbolic acts only go away when they bite the bullet and behave like regular leaders.
    Tom Elliott take note.

  • Mr E Mann

    I don’t see why meeting the Queen should be a problem for McG. In the *Irish* republican POV, the whole of Ireland is a separate entity from the whole of Britain. SF presumably thinks it’s the business of people in Britain whether they want to bow down to to an old lady in a funny hat.

    On the other hand, I think it’s great NI’s leaders could both converge on a decision not to meet the Queen and Pope. Perhaps each side sees now what they need to throw away?

  • Rory Carr

    We have to consider that by not accepting the invitation both the First Minister and Deputy First Minister were following the wishes of the constituents who elected them. DUP unionists are unlikely to be thrilled at the thoughts of their man meeting the Pope and republican voters would not want a Sinn Féin DFM acting as part of a UK state reception party.

    Since Sinn Féin is in any case antithetical to the inclusion of any part of Ireland in the UK state then his stance of pleasing his electoral supporters neatly dovetailed with his political stance on the Union.

    It was different however for Robinson, for in pandering to any anti-papist sympathies among his supporters he was obliged to betray their support for the Union by rejecting the opportunity to represent Northern Ireland as part of a UK state reception on the occasion of a state visit.

    Result: McGuiness wins. Robinson loses.

    Their relationship begins to represent that between Spurs and the Gunners over the last two decades with Robinson being the one who wears the white shirt and trudges dejectedly to the dressing room after almost every encounter completely outmanouevred..

  • Alias

    “This kind of attention to symbolic acts only go away when they bite the bullet and behave like regular leaders.”

    Cart before the horse…

    They didn’t attend because of the internal political dynamics of a society wherein two nations are forced to share one state, so the symptom will “only go away” when the problem goes away (which will be when NI is repartitioned or when the British state successfully engineers the nation that actually has the pseudo ‘right’ to self-determination in NI).

    “Tom Elliott take note.”

    I think he has noted that PC policies and other top-down doctrines – so beloved of left-wingers and quango fetishists – don’t actually work.

  • Alias

    “Since Sinn Féin is in any case antithetical to the inclusion of any part of Ireland in the UK state then his stance of pleasing his electoral supporters neatly dovetailed with his political stance on the Union.”

    If PSF didn’t agree that NI was an integral part of the UK then they wouldn’t be singing the praises of the document that declares it to be an integral part of the UK and that those who declare it to be otherwise have no legitimate politician or constitutional basis for that claim.

    But as Pete said, psychotics are not known for their grasp of reality…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Exactly….although I prefer a comparison between Manchester United and the other major team in the Manchester area……Boton Wanderers.

  • Rory Carr


    Accepting what a situation is and yet working to change it hardly qualifies as ‘psychotic’. Indeed it would be a precondition of working for change that present reality was first accepted in which case you may wish to look elsewhere for the deluded.

  • Alias

    You can’t work to change it after you have declared it to perfectly legitimate – that is working to consolidate the legitimacy that you have accepted.

    Of course, PSF had political careers before they accepted the legitimacy of British rule in the GFA, so the argument that they only accepted it in order to create the means to change that which they have accepted is bogus. They accepted it because that is what the British state demanded of them.

    No PSF or SDLP was excluded from political when they refused to accept the legitimacy of British sovereignty and refused to renounce their national rights, so accepting something that you didn’t need to accept and then claiming that it is still unacceptable to you is wholly psychotic.

  • Alias

    Typo: “No PSF or SDLP was excluded from political office when they refused to accept the legitimacy of British sovereignty…”

  • Alias

    By the way, psychosis that Pete referred is the refusal by certain folks to recognise that NI is a part of the UK after they have signed up to NI being an integral part of the UK. Of course the PSF leaders are well aware of what their handlers had them sign up to, so the psychosis is inflicted on the sheep that are not aware of it and must be deliberately kept in ignorance of it in order to promote British national interest in its now fully legitimised and undisputed ownership of the territory.

    The psychosis that I referred to is the refusal by certain folks to recognise that NI is legitimately a part of the UK after they have signed up to NI being a legitimate part of the UK. It is one thing to state that NI is a part of the UK (a simple fact) but it is quite another thing to state that it is a legitimate part of the UK while also claiming that you don’t regard it as a legitimate part of the UK and only declared it to be a legitimate part of the UK because you don’t want it to be a legitimate part of the UK.

    What you have done, unwittingly or otherwise, is obfuscate the statement of fact with the statement of legitimacy.

  • Pippakin

    The pair of them chose to stay at home for the same political reason: neither of them wanted to upset the extremes of their separate support, that those extremes are at opposite ends is irrelevant the result is the same.

    Nationalists may be convinced, with some justification, PR is bigoted and would run a mile from compromise

    Unionists may be convinced, with some justification, MMcG is bigoted etc. etc…

    Both extremes can congratulate themselves on their ‘victory’.

    MMcG may be right the Pope might turn up here in 2012. Does he think that will be another ‘get out of jail free’ card. I doubt it.

  • Rory Carr

    You say that, I, ” obfuscate the statement of fact with the statement of legitimacy” but you, Alias do not appreciate the very tenuousness, the conditionality of this legitimacy that binds part of Ireland to the UK. This condition is the will of the majority of the electorate of the entity known as Northern Ireland as expressed in referendum whenever such referendum may be called and should that referendum result in a majority opting to remain within the UK then a future referendum may be called that overturns that decision.

    Given the very precariousness of such legitimacy it would perhaps be more psychotic of those who wish to secede from the UK not to wait and work within the system until the inevitable demographic shift guarantees the fulfillment of their wishes.

    It is those who would scheme to delay the inevitable and thsoe who would engage in futile warfare in an impotent attempt to speed the inevitably of the end of the Union who are failing to face reality.