Differing reactions to G8 summit decision
- 20 November 2012
- From the section Northern Ireland
So is David Cameron's decision to host the G8 summit in Fermanagh a fantastic opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland's potential for tourism and investment?
Or an unwanted intrusion by leaders who represent nobody but big business and greedy bankers?
So far we have First Minister Peter Robinson, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell, the former Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott and the CBI and other business organisations lining up as cheerleaders for the summit.
Mrs Foster, wearing both her ministerial and Fermanagh MLA hats, said "the Lough Erne resort faced stiff competition from several other locations across the UK and I am delighted that it has been chosen as the most suitable host venue.
"I'm sure when US President Barack Obama and the other world leaders attending the summit see the stunning scenery for themselves, they will agree it was the right choice."
The naysayers appear thinner on the ground.
The Socialist Party's Paddy Meehan reckons "the G8 is an undemocratic gathering of political figures who represent big business, greedy bankers and a capitalist system which is making workers and young people pay for their crisis.
"Their agenda is completely opposed to the interests of the majority of people internationally. They represent the 1%, not the 99%."
The Socialist Party is pledging to organise a "massive protest" against the summit next June.
No doubt other left-wing parties will share that analysis. Over on Facebook, there's been a "Resist the 2013 G8 Summit" page up for the last six months, although the choice of Fermanagh as a venue may pose some of the would be protesters with extra logistical headaches.
Between the "massive protest" and "massive boost for NI" camps, Sinn Fein's position is a bit more delicate.
Sinn Fein's Fermanagh MLA Phil Flanagan said he was sure most people in the county would be happy that Barack Obama would be paying them a visit.
But he went on to describe the G8 as "by definition, an exclusive group". Mr Flanagan argued that "locating the G8 summit on the island of Ireland will not, I suspect, bring any relief to the economic difficulties we are facing on this island.
"The summit may however present an opportunity for a collective message to come out from government North and South that austerity measures are not the answer to the economic downturn."
Those who pick up on that reference to government north and south might be tempted to point out Ireland isn't one of the G8, so won't get an invitation in its own right to the exclusive gathering.
Given that this might represent a bit of an embarrassment, it's a happy coincidence that Ireland will hold the EU presidency from January to June 2013, meaning that Enda Kenny will be there as representative of the EU which is sometimes called the "ninth member" of the G8.
If Phil Flanagan had to phrase his news release carefully to pick his way between the G8 protesters and cheerleaders, that was nothing compared to the task facing Martin McGuinness, who had to stand alongside Mr Cameron whilst not specifically welcoming a summit which involves the initials UK and G8.
In a lengthy contribution, the deputy first minister said it was necessary to take a "sober" view of the summit news.
Significantly the first and deputy first ministers didn't publish a joint statement welcoming the G8.
Instead we had separate statements from the DUP and Sinn Fein, with Mr McGuinness hoping "the G8 leaders, when they come to Fermanagh, will recognise and accept the need to do something deep and profound to assist people, many millions of whom are the poorest on the planet today."
How Sinn Fein and the other Stormont parties manage the G8 summit come next June will be fascinating to observe.
Back in 2003 when George Bush met Tony Blair at Hillsborough Castle during the Iraq war, many local politicians voiced their opposition to both US and UK foreign policy.
According to Tony Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell, "most of them had announced to the media in advance that they were going to give Bush a hard time on Iraq, but predictably they were overwhelmed by the occasion and just asked for his autograph or a signed photograph.
"It didn't stop many of them going out afterwards and announcing they had lectured him on the subject."
Confronted by Barack Obama or other world leaders, will our normally loquacious representatives once again get all tongue tied?