How excited are you - extremely? Moderately? Not at all? Of course it’s hard to say what will come out of the meeting – what specifics, what practical decisions. Maybe they’ll be decisions that’ll trigger other outcomes that’ll balloon into something truly transforming. Maybe. Meanwhile, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that today’s sixth North-South ministerial council meeting in Dublin will be about as successful as a castrated mouse faced with an elephant in heat.
There’ll be twenty-six representatives from north and south, including Brian Cowen, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, and the economy will top the agenda. “We must work together energetically in whatever ways we can for mutual benefit” Mr Cowen is reported as saying. “The ongoing work of the North South Ministerial Council can play an increasingly important part in our strategy for economic recovery and can realize benefits for all of the people, north and south”.
Do you tell me that, Brian. And when you say “our strategy for economic recovery”, are you talking about the south’s strategy or the north and the south’s strategy? And would there be any chance you could explain just what is the south’s strategy, and how working with the north will benefit both sides? …The what? The penalty points system?....I see. You’re going to see if working together, politicians from the north and south can find a better way to prosecute northern drivers caught speeding in the south.
Mmm. You know, sometimes you have to take a big bite of the truth, however nasty the taste. The North-South councils, we were led to believe, would be the engine which would bring about greater and more effective cross-border development of Ireland as a unit. They’d start with small matters, OK, but these would gradually increase in number and size until we’d all see the benefits of acting in a united fashion. That was twelve years ago, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. And here we are, or rather there they are, looking at prosecuting northern drivers who speed south of the border. Does that look like an issue that’s important in moving towards to national unity?
If we insist on travelling up cul-de-sacs or along roads that have misleading sign-posts, we shouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get any nearer our destination. And if we refuse to admit when a road is a cul-de-sac or a wrong one, we’re fools.