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Papal Bull?

Mark Devenport | 18:11 UK time, Thursday, 16 September 2010

Should we believe the protestations of the First and Deputy First Ministers that it was "the economy stupid" which took priority over attending the Pope's visit to Scotland? There's no denying that the New York Stock Exchange's decision to create 400 jobs is welcome and important, but their move here was originally announced last October.

However Martin McGuinness's admission that he would have been keen to greet the Pope on a visit to Ireland sets the matter in its political context. Mr McGuinness and Ian Paisley were sometimes said to have an informal understanding that one would meet the Queen, the other the Pope. But what do you do when you get the two of them together?

By not turning up, Mr Robinson was spared being on the inside, whilst Ian Paisley demonstrated on the outside. Mr McGuinness was spared appearing to defer to the Queen.

The fact that both the Pope and the Queen made direct references to the local peace process only made Stormont's absence more conspicuous.

The FM and DFM couldn't put their invitation on e-bay (like an all Ireland GAA ticket), but maybe they should have touted it around the other ministers. The SDLP's Social Development Minister Alex Attwood, for example, might have represented Northern Ireland, but I understand he wasn't approached.


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  • 1. At 08:20am on 17 Sep 2010, Grand_Old_Duke wrote:

    The rejection of the Queen's invitation on such spurious grounds was yet another example of the political immaturity of our leaders and utterly predictable. Will we ever grow up?

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  • 2. At 11:03am on 17 Sep 2010, Dave wrote:

    A knotty problem actually:
    One one level, another missed opportunity to show some political maturity: For Peter Robinson, the opportunity to meet the supposed spiritual leader of about 40% of the people he's FM of. There shouldn't be a problem with that, and in a country where politics and religion are linked (at least partially) it would have been a powerful symbol that a person's beliefs don't (and shouldn't) matter to the government of NI.
    Don't see the problem with Martin McGuinness meeting the Queen. Sinn Fein signed up to the Good Friday agreement which acknowledges NI's place in the UK unless we decide otherwise. He's repeatedly met members of our government and has a role in governing part of the UK. Why not meet the UK's head of state? It's not as if he's being asked to abase himself in front of her or swear undying fealty.
    Maybe both sides need to get over themselves a bit.

    On the other hand:
    I would contend that the economy, jobs and education, not sovereignty, are the issues pre-occupying people on both side of the border.
    The Pope's visit is touted as that of a head of state. If he's not bringing in inward investment, helping to secure NI jobs or bolstering the local economy then our goverment is right to be spending its time with those who can deliver these things for everyone here, rather than those who can't.

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  • 3. At 12:10pm on 17 Sep 2010, Francesca Jones wrote:

    I can understand how a papal visit can cause problems for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and perhaps the obvious sectarian issues may have contributed to them not turning up.
    However finance issues are a pressing problem at the moment. The southern Irish economy is really under pressure such that I noticed this on notayesmanseconomics blog.
    "As Ireland has strengths that Greece did not have for example she ran a much better fiscal policy before the credit crunch and took more decisive initial steps to respond she in my view could add to those strengths by again acting decisively and calling in the EU/IMF to help her. For once a country could get ahead of events rather than just respond to them."
    So there are serious economic problems in the south which are likely to also impact on Northern Ireland.

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  • 4. At 3:35pm on 17 Sep 2010, notconned wrote:

    How could martin have gone inside and left his chuckle mate outside,protesting?
    and peter well-------he is maybe more comfortable with those involved in business,directors,developers?

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  • 5. At 5:04pm on 17 Sep 2010, Alan wrote:

    Diplomat's? Don't make me laugh. You could be excused for describing them as bigots!! With leadership comes responsibility and if it means smiling with your fingers crossed when carrying out the duties of office then so be it. It they feel unable to carry out all the duties that comes with their leadership positions then they should step aside.

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  • 6. At 5:56pm on 17 Sep 2010, Gospel18 wrote:

    What an absolutely brilliant move by our first and deputy first ministers. I couldn't have thought of it in a month of Sundays. Well done both of you

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  • 7. At 8:23pm on 17 Sep 2010, eyeswideopen1 wrote:

    Maybe Marty and Peter cold have joined big Ian on the flight over with cardinal Brady to Edinburgh to see his Holiness. Big Ian seems to have wanted to be as quote: "far away from the pope as possible" but still got on a plane to be near him, could this be a spiritual calling?
    BBC correspondent Peter Hunt described the speech at Westminster Hall by pope Benedict as "a rallying call, and a plea". Could the big man on his way back stop at a few orange halls and give the a copy of the Queen of Englands speech were in part she said "Your Holiness, I am delighted to welcome you to the United Kingdom, and particularly to Scotland, on your first visit as Pope. In this country we deeply appreciate the involvement of the Holy See in the dramatic improvement in the situation in Northern Ireland". If this were to come about i,m sure big Ian and co would be given all Ireland football final tickets by some good natured supporter and they could all go and watch the game of the year between Cork and Down and Ian & co could again stay as far away from the action as possible (hill 16 would be good). For me i,m supporting Cork in this clash so up the rebels. I,ll will leave the words of the broadcasting legend Micheál O Muircheartaigh with you: "Pat Fox has it on his hurl and is motoring well now....but here comes Joe Rabbitte hot on his tail...I've seen it all now, a Rabbitte chasing a Fox around Croke Park !" Slán agus beannacht leat

    Eyes wide open gaels

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  • 8. At 10:41pm on 18 Sep 2010, ultonian wrote:

    Simple peter doesn't do popes, marty doesn't do queens or is it the other way around.

    Anyway a simple solution was found, go to the open of an envelope then treat the people of Northern Ireland as if they are morons, trying to convince them that the particular envelop was sooooo important it took both of them holding hands - pathetic really

    why couldn't they just break with a habit of a lifetime and tell the ..........!

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  • 9. At 10:54pm on 18 Sep 2010, trevor polley wrote:

    If tens of thousands of Roman Catholics stayed from meeting the Pope why would we force the First Minister to attend.

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  • 10. At 12:40pm on 19 Sep 2010, Brian M wrote:

    One refusal is for obviously sectarian reasons, the other for political reasons. There is a clear distinction.

    Instead of always having to be seen to be neutral to appear "liberal" in their own minds it would be a good idea if people were analytical and honest rather than see everyone at fault when it is clearly a case of of refusal because of bigotry as opposed to refusing because of a political belief.

    Both are as bad as each other for many reasons but in this instance it is clear that one has no reason not to attend and, considering that he believes northern Ireland is part of the "U"K and considering that the leaders of Scotland and Wales met the Pope, Robinson should have played the role he is getting paid to do fully not as he chooses.

    Although, then again he has not acted as a leader since taken over the non-elected reins so we shouldn't be too surprised.

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