Cameron’s occasional summitry replaces Blair’s swing door…

When the First and deputy First Minister arrived at 10 Downing Street last month, they had to wait outside for ‘the magic door’ to open. Inadvertent no doubt, but the downgrade it implies chimes with David Cameron’s determination to signal to all parties in Northern Ireland that all messes are their messes and it is they rather than the UK government to clear it up.

But as Mark Hennessy notes, there is a sense that much of the senior human capital that was built and developed in the effort to build the current peace settlement is being let drift, and institutional memory allowed to fade:

…the danger, or perhaps, more accurately, the fear, is that worse challenges will have to be faced in time by an unprepared Downing Street. Then, relationships and ties needed on such a day may not be there to be found.

Such ties had to be built once before from the early 1980s onwards – over drinks late at night at meetings of the British-Irish Association and a host of other venues – when work that led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement began.

Fear rather than danger. Internal summitry has replaced the swing door of the Blair age. That was appropriate to a process driven towards the closing of Mr Adams’ indigenous deal.

All politics that bind east and west (and north and south) after that must be composed of voluntary effort within the albeit limited channels set up and still developing under the terms of the Belfast Agreement. And when the need arises, more directly.

In the meantime, the message from Number 10 to OFMdFM ‘we’ll talk when we have mutual business, but until sort out the problems you were elected to solve‘.

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  • BarneyT

    Until the apron strings are propertly cut, wont they continue to run to mammy?

  • Barnshee

    At last-a British Government which worked out who is paying the bills for the charade that is the assembly.

    What I hope he said

    “Clean up your own mess, -no more funds from the taxpayer and by the way if you fancy another bout of “armed action” or similar –rip on I`ll take the costs out of the block grant and leave you with SFA if I have to “

  • “it is clear that Cameron has given her the same gate-guarding role once held by Paterson”

    Is it not also clear that Theresa Villiers is operating in a low profile role similar to that of Michael Moore and David Jones?

    “is being let drift”

    The drift of London and Dublin politicians and civil servants away from Belfast probably began as soon as the 1998 Agreement was signed. I’ve not been in contact with the BIIGS phone number in Belfast this year but it’s been years since a UK civil servant answered the phone.

  • Benign or malign neglect has been the dominant theme in relations within the UK between London and Belfast during the twentieth century. An exception was made for the period of The Troubles (1969-1998) and the subsequent peace process (1993-2007). During The Troubles the attention was mainly military and handled by the MOD, with some input by Ted Heath during the Sunningdale process in 1973-74. Afterwards the NIO was considered to be an exile for civil servants and politicians in the two parties until Major got the peace process going with FF. After the peace was finally bedded down in 2007 with Paisley’s election as First Minister, the situation returned to its natural state–neglect.