Two events: one from yesterday, the other to come later today. Neither is of particular significance.
Yesterday Paul Maskey was elected in West Belfast, polling, what was it, just over 70% of the vote. Last time out, Gerry Adams collected just over 71% of the vote. Maskey’s next rival, the SDLP ‘s Alex Attwood, came trailing several thousands of votes behind him, as he had done behind Gerry Adams. No change again. Two not-very-startling conclusions to be drawn: West Belfast is an impregnable Sinn Féin stronghold, no matter who the candidate is; and Sinn Féin will continue to keep its focus firmly on representation in Ireland, north and south, while keeping Westminster ticking over. Some say it’s only a question of time before Sinn Féin take their seats in Westminster, just as they did in the Assembly and the Dail. They couldn’t be wronger.
Today’s event is the meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council, hosted by that fiery republican, Enda Kenny. Has North-South linkage been a limp organ over the past thirteen years? Does Sarah Palin want her photograph taken with Maggie Thatcher? Granted, Enda Kenny has the words right: “We believe that there are many practical and innovative ways in which North/South co-operation can help to aid economic recovery and to bring about better value for money and improved public services for everyone on the island of Ireland”. But if you think he’s planning to turn any of those words into action, you’re suffering from sunstroke or rain-rust or both.
The North/South bodies have so far produced nothing worth a damn, won’t today and maybe never will, for two good reasons: unionism and southern ‘nationalism’. The DUP wants every cross-border initiative to fail because every successful one is a testimony to the failure of partition. And Fine Gael/Labour don’t want any successful initiatives for the same reason. Words - no problem with the words. But the last thing they want is any action that might seriously shake the partition apple-cart, let alone upset it. That’s why today’s meeting will produce nothing – repeat NOTHING – of practical importance.