Northern Ireland

A period of relative calm at the Stormont Executive

After the shouting match that took place at last week's executive meeting, this week's discussions were rather more even-tempered.

Ministers talked about the threat posed by "legal high" drugs, but with a public apology already made, no-one re-visited the controversy over Islam.

Instead the gathering concluded early so the first minister could board a plane in order to participate in the D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations.

So does this period of relative calm provide an opportunity for the parties to broker deals on welfare reform, flags or the past? Don't bet on it.

Unionist criticism of the new Parades Commission's rejection of the Orange Order's latest application to march past the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast serves as a reminder that this year's marching season could prove fairly tense.

The Police Federation acknowledges the PSNI's need for "mutual aid officers" from England, Wales and Scotland may become a more frequent occurrence and is calling for such officers to be issued with guns for their own personal protection.

The Ulster Unionist leader rejoined the "post-Haass" talks briefly, but only to convey his suggestion that parades should be "decoupled" from the other issues.

Mike Nesbitt didn't get much support from the others, which isn't surprising as both nationalists and Alliance view the replacement of the Parades Commission as a unionist demand only to be conceded in the event of progress elsewhere.

Sinn Féin has secured a meeting with David Cameron before the end of the month. That evens up the score after the recent revelations about a Tory/DUP tête-a-tête in the garden at Number Ten.

However it's unlikely the encounter will do that much to change the financial equations concerning welfare reform.

Over the summer we may get some reshuffles (with the exception of Danny Kennedy who is keeping his job at the Department for Regional Development).

We are also due to get another visit from the Queen.

Martin McGuinness will discover whether his World Cup draw of "England" turns out to be a good pick (or if he should have traded with Peter Robinson who apparently drew "Colombia").

But will we get a breakthrough in the Stormont policy logjam? I think the odds on an England World Cup victory might prove to be shorter.