Fermanagh's trouble-free G8 gives everyone at Stormont what they want

Northern Ireland ministers Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster greet President Barack Obama Image copyright Darren Kidd/Presseye.com
Image caption Northern Ireland ministers Michelle O'Neill (left) and Arlene Foster (second left) greet President Barack Obama

Strolling around the G8 press centre you make your way past a gaggle of Russian journalists watching footage of Vladimir Putin stepping off his plane.

Then the Tannoy goes off and reporters interested in covering a Canadian-Japanese bilateral are summoned to the relevant shuttle bus.

Flyers from campaign groups beseech the world leaders to tackle tax evasion or land reform.

It's only when you lift your head to look out at the view across Lough Erne that you are reminded this is indeed Fermanagh.

The brief media guide on offer includes a few facts the travelling hacks might not know - that the Belfast News Letter is the oldest English language daily paper still in publication, that Seagate makes one in every four recording heads for the world's computer disk drives, that a third of Fermanagh is covered in water.

Implied criticism

If the reporters didn't pick up these facts already for their preview pieces the truth is it is already too late. The hacks' focus is definitely on hard news issues like Syria, tax avoidance and trade, not Northern Ireland's tourist potential.

Neither the tourist board nor Stormont should worry about this too much - in the last few hours executive ministers have already had all their photo opportunity dreams come true.

While the economic balance sheet will take some time to draw up, so far the G8 has provided Northern Ireland with a smooth, trouble-free story.

If there was some implied criticism in President Obama's decision to use his Waterfront Hall speech to appeal over the heads of the politicians to Northern Ireland's teenagers, then the message was so general that all the Stormont parties could take what they want from it.

The president compared Northern Ireland's progress to America's struggle against racism.

He criticised segregated schools, but didn't appear to be au fait with the differences between integrated and shared education.


Instead we had a general endorsement of the first and deputy first minister's Building a United Community initiative, which pushes shared campuses rather than integrated schools.

But if it was broad brush stuff then it's worth thinking back to the last visit by a US dignitary - Hillary Clinton's farewell tour.

Mrs Clinton arrived in the teeth of the union flag dispute and it took some fancy diplomatic footwork to ensure her Stormont Castle presser didn't descend into recriminations between the first and deputy first ministers.

Having a repeat performance with the president in town would not have been an option, so although the G8 agenda has very little to do with Northern Ireland, to that extent this summit has influenced the course of Stormont politics.