First of all there was the simple pleasure at Lough Erne looking wonderful, an English friend saying “didn’t Enniskillen look beautiful” and even the rain staying off, mostly. I admit I was chuffed to see Jon Snow presenting lakeside “fresh in from Iran.. on a beautiful Fermanagh evening.”
And never mind Obama. Unfashionable as it is to praise any British Prime Minister for anything they do on this island, let’s hear it for David Cameron whose bold and imaginative decision it was to locate G8 in Fermanagh. At the wind-up of the talks he had energy left to end on an uplifting local note.
All of the G8 leaders commented on how remarkable to hold this G8 here, what a powerful message it sent and what it meant for them. That transformation was made possible by the determination of so many people in all sections of the community.
Stressing the opportunities that the G8 could open up, Mr Cameron said he would attend an investment conference in Northern Ireland in October.
Despite the usual feverish searches for carping notes “ why fly the Irish flag?” £50 million cost of security” etc. the Irish Times headline got it right, although carefully attributing it to “politicians”( guess who?). What has been “bought” is more than publicity for an exclusive venue. Is it the sense that Northern Ireland can be integrated into a normal global world. G8 points to a context beyond navel gazing. While nodding politely in our direction, political leaders came here to talk about bigger things than us and our small exceptionalism. OK, perhaps without our exceptionalism they would not have come this time. But in the era of devolution it had to be Northern Ireland’s turn one day.
I only wish the sour and obviously uncomfortable Putin had been asked if he had any lessons from the peace process. Slightly more controversially, only the UK could have given us this particular opportunity while acknowledging assistance in staging from the Republic and rightly inviting Enda Kenny to the EU/ US free trade deal session. The Republic can host a great sentimental journey anytime but only the UK can still provide a world stage.
G8 was also David Cameron’s discreet boost to the Union and he pledges more. But don’t worry. It’s a Union in permanent partnership with Ireland.