The sky didn't fall in on Handshake Wednesday


As we went on air for my final broadcast of Handshake Wednesday the heavens above Stormont opened and dumped a monsoon-like deluge onto our heads.

Thunder clapped and we looked towards Carson's outstretched hand - the nearest likely lightning conductor - and half expected a bolt of electricity to fork down from on high.

Although the end of the world seemed imminent the sky hasn't fallen in, at least in political terms.

The symbolism is over and done with, the practical consequences harder to calculate.

On the BBC's Nolan show, the DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds confirmed that Peter Robinson has already shaken hands with Martin McGuinness, which is hardly surprising given they spend so much of their working lives at close quarters.

Mr Dodds says everyone occupying a civic position will now be expected to perform the usual niceties.

However he declined to tell the Orange Order Grand Lodge to drop their refusal to talk to Sinn Fein, pointing out that they are a voluntary organisation, not a council or branch of government.

While Gerry Adams hoped that the era of people refusing to talk to each other would now be over, ironically the royal handshake has apparently closed off one potential area of dialogue.

The dissident Republican Network for Unity withdrew their expression of interest in talks with the Sinn Fein leadership in protest at Martin McGuinness's gesture.

Over the summer this much vaunted 'new phase' in the process will face familiar tests in places like Ardoyne.

We have yet to see the Executive's final Cohesion Sharing and Integration strategy (minus Alliance) which is meant to address the obvious gulf between the images of high level political harmony and the continuing divisions on the ground.

The Queen and the Deputy First Minister haven't waved a magic wand which suddenly makes Northern Ireland's multiple problems vanish.

Nevertheless another hurdle has been overcome and for that at least all those involved behind the scenes will feel they can give themselves a pat on the back.

Mark Devenport Article written by Mark Devenport Mark Devenport Political editor, Northern Ireland

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  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    And on the heading,the sky might not have fallen,but Ireland wept.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Barry,Barry, Barry,N I merge with a Catholic nation.? Whatever next? England to merge with Germany.?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Your point is typical of people of your persuasion. You say you would rather merge with Brazil, but I think you would rather merge with North Korea, than admit to being Irish. And as for your point about the people who want to play for NI, it seems that some of them would rather play for the RoI. With my point, they could all play for the RoI.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    4. PatricksPoint - I'd rather NI merged with Brazil, that way not only would we win the Euros, we'd also get to enter the South American cups... think of the away trips! Of course, if you wanted to make a team that could win games, I think the RoI would be better off merging with England. As for NI, I'm happy that it's the best my country can put together & people who want to play for the team.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I fear that it is the same across all communities in Northern Ireland. I have had the privilege of seeing both sides of the coin and the similarities are frightening. It has always appeared to me that we are one nation divided by a few. And the few are made up of idealists and opportunists but both end up feathering their own nests in the main.


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