Differing reactions to G8 summit decision

David Cameron David Cameron made the announcement during a visit to a factory outside Portadown

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%."

Protest plan

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?

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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    How about discussing property prices as a topic as per Jim Fitzpatrick on BBC.

    "That suggests a hugely negative economic legacy that few have begun to fully appreciate."

    An appropriate topic me thinks

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Delegates should be made to take an Ulsterbus there from the International Airport, maybe it would encourage someone to allow Translink a little more money for new vehicles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Ashmount - Tim
    You hit the nail on the head when you said it is the world press who will be the ultimate judges. We need to put our best face on and show off all of our assets. We should not let minority groups hijack this for their own ends to the detriment of the country. Our politicans should be able to do this while also promoting growth in manufacturing for the good of our economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    We need to develop our export capacity in engineering, technology and the life sciences as well as tourism.The fact is we are losing too many high value jobs and replacing them, if at all, with low paid unsustainable work. I fear G8 'handouts' only distract from our grim economic position and give an excuse to politicians to 'big up' their role and the dubious long term economic benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    As usual for a BBC report, the naysayers dominate the article - Mark quotes the Socialist Party who have exactly how many representatives on any elected body in Northern Ireland? Part of the problem for us as a place to invest and do business is this negativity that masquerades as investigative and insightful journalism. This is a huge win for NI whatever way you look at it...


Comments 5 of 8



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