“this sort of thing is not helpful…”

In his political review of the year, focusing on the new interventionist Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, the News Letter‘s Sam McBride includes this intriging cameo from the corridors of power Stormont.

Three weeks ago, when this newspaper reported Owen Paterson’s strongly pro-Union Steinberg Lecture, Martin McGuinness caught up with the secretary of state in a corridor, held up a copy of the News Letter front page, and chided him that “this sort of thing is not helpful”.

Given Mr Paterson’s call for local politicians to get on with agreeing a budget and his clear distinction between terrorists and their victims in the lecture, it is easy to see why the former IRA commander was unhappy.

But one wonders how much his ire was a result of the fact that Mr Paterson is making decisions, largely on his own, and is not hamstrung by four other parties, as is Mr McGuinness and each of the other Stormont ministers.

Not helpful, Northern Ireland deputy First Minister?  To whom?

As ever, do read the whole thing.

Adds  Or, did he mean not helpful

  • Greenflag

    I’m with Mr McGuinness on this one . I suspect the Secretary of State has been reading up on his Irish history and has discovered that the island was much better off when it was ruled directly from London with as few of the local stand ins as possible to complicate matters. The long list of England originated ‘political successes goes back centuries and covers such popular high points as the wars and war induced famines of the Second Conquest(1585 -1700) a mere 680,000 deaths -that high point of equality before the law known as the Penal Laws and that tremendous boon to Irish agricultural productivity and modernisation -the Great Famine .We’ll skip the later successes such as Home Rule and the ensuing further successes of London inspired origin.

    Perhaps the SOS has been reading up on Irish history in order to repeat the mistakes made by centuries of his predecessors .

    Not that that would’nt surprise me .

    He might want to repeat to himself several times morning noon and night that even if Derry/Londonderry is in the UK for political and administrative purposes and the same is true of all NI, that this alone does not make them Finchley or Sunderland or Tunbridge Wells .

    Caesar in his Gallic Wars said Veni Vidi Vici .
    A long line of SOS’s appear to have come , kept their eyes shut , and learnt nothing and returned to London to political obscurity .

    I wonder how many SOS’s McGuiness has seen come and go since 1970 And how many more will he see return to London ’empty handed ‘ ?

  • When I next meet Owen Paterson, I might be tempted to show him a copy of another report in the Newsletter and say to him, “this sort of thing is not helpful”

  • Alias
  • sdelaneys

    Surely Martin didn’t mean the Patterson should not say things which might frighten those people Martin has been telling different stories to about a United Ireland in 2014.
    Don’t those pesky English know that they are supposed to claim to be neutral now and we are all supposed to pretend to believe them? Honesty is not supposed to be on the agenda at all, Mr Patterson.

  • Cynic2

    Perhaps Martin needs to realise that its not the Secretary of States job to be helpful to him. He can no longer rely on a compliant Blair minion who will roll over on everything

  • pippakin

    The SOS is entitled to his opinion. It changes nothing, sure in a couple of years time it will be his opinion that the tories will make the best government..

    The north has been a political graveyard for British politicians for decades. It is not about to change now.

  • The north has been a political graveyard for British politicians for decades

    It depends how you define “political graveyard.” It is certainly a political graveyard for moderate Northern Ireland parties. There have also been some policy failures. It is certainly a financial graveyard.

    However, there have been some policy successes too and what British Politicians do or do not do with Northern Ireland has not impacted on the popularity of political parties in Britain for many years.

  • sdelaneys

    “The north has been a political graveyard for British politicians for decades. ”

    It has also been a step on the ladder for quite a few too..

  • Reader

    Greenflag: Caesar in his Gallic Wars said Veni Vidi Vici.
    Wrong war.
    Greenflag: I wonder how many SOS’s McGuiness has seen come and go since 1970 And how many more will he see return to London ‘empty handed ‘ ?
    How so? Each one of them brought their job back for their successor – to Martie’s regret, no doubt. A couple of them also brought back peace deals. I suspect Martie was a bit ambivalent about those.

  • Pete Baker

    Adds Or, did he mean not helpful

  • Cynic2


    Yes Marty has seen many SOS’s come and go. Yet the British are still here. The Union is secure within a new constitutional settlement. The Irish claim on the North has been removed. And Marty himself is now a British Minister in a British Regional Government based at the hated Stormont where his plush office is just down the corridor from his boss “Pete the Prod” Robinson.

    You couldn’t make it up

  • Greenflag

    @ Reader ,

    Without the USA ‘intervention’ and the support of the Irish Government there would have been no peace deal -it would still be the 1970’s /1980s in NI at least in terms of the political standoff. HMG alone could not have delivered the goods alone .

    The SOS while entitled to his ‘Unionist ‘ political viewpoint should be aware that it’s not a good idea to ‘rock the boat’ unless he’s also trying to propel SF into government in the Republic as well as NI ?

    As for the Union being secure?. The Union was always secure and will always be secure until such time as there is a majority of nationalist voters in NI .

    @ cynic2

    ‘You couldn’t make it up’

    Of course not . Truth is stranger than fiction and when the DUP/SF win another term in May the fiction will continue until one fine day truth will out . But by then HMG will have long since departed NI and people will wonder what all the fuss was really about .

  • “NI is not a hybrid state – Paterson”

    Really? I’m not aware of Irish civil servants who are involved in day-to-day and policy decisions pertaining to policing and other justice issues in the rest of the UK.

    “It would not be correct to say that the position of the Joint Secretary is comparable to that of persons serving as Heads of Irish missions abroad.”

    Perhaps the Irish Joint Secretary’s role is closer that of (joint?) Secretary of State than ambassador.

  • Wasted Ballot

    I think it’s time Marty learns he can’t dictate what people say and think, especially to those who don’t live in ‘da nart’

    A pro union SOS is not the same as a friend to the unionist parties. I thought we had moved past this kind of drum beating politics.

    On the other hand, who cares what he may say about the union in some irrelevant speech..

  • Greenflag

    @ Nevin ,

    You might think that but others can’t possibly comment or comment too much perhaps?

    ‘The Secretariat is a joint Irish-British body and is staffed by officials of both the Irish and British governments. It would not be correct to say that the position of the Joint Secretary is comparable to that of persons serving as Heads of Irish missions abroad.”‘

    Sounds like Sir Humphrey Appleby has’nt ever retired 😉

    ‘We therefore concluded that the public interest test in retaining this information outweighs the public interest in release.’

    That sounds like the kind of comment that the RC Church hierarchy would have made any time over the previous decades/centuries in Ireland or elsewhere and even like the comments being made by USA/UK/Swedish and other governments made /are making about Wikileaks 🙁

    Someday they may get around to muzzling all investigative journalism as being in the ‘interest of the State ‘

    George Orwell was perhaps a few decades out in his futuristic predictions ?

  • Munsterview

    Lets be positive here folks, was a time when the SOS may have had something other than a newspaper waved in his face if the opportunity presented.

    This is one for the memoirs : during the height of the troubles while in the North, I accompanied a friend to a certain large school where he had some business. I was asked to give a talk on cultural matters to one of the classes.

    The then SOS also happened to make an unscheduled call to the school and walked in on my talk.

    Quick change of topic just ahead of the headmasters need for a change of underwear ! All peace and reconciliation of course, the distinguished gentleman was impressed, he even said that what the North needed was more of my type up there! Could not have been in more agreement with the SOS.