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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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