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May 08, 2007

HIstoric Return For NI Assembly

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 05/08/07 Historic Return For NI Assembly
BB 05/08/07 Bertie Visits A Sign Of Changed Times
BB 05/08/07 If Edward Carson Could Talk
BB 05/08/07 Politicians React To Devolution
BN 05/08/07 Power-Sharing Has Lessons For Other Conflicts: Blair


Historic Return For NI Assembly

Northern Ireland has a new power-sharing government in an
historic day at Stormont.

DUP leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness have
taken their pledges of office as devolution returns to Northern

Five years of direct rule by London appointed ministers
officially ended at midnight.

British and Irish Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern
travelled to Stormont to witness the ceremony.

In October 2002, allegations of intelligence gathering within
Stormont led to the suspension of power-sharing institutions. A
subsequent court case collapsed.

Mr Paisley said Northern Ireland was now "on the road to

"I believe we're starting on a road which will bring us back to
peace and to prosperity," he said.

Mr McGuinness said he was confident he and the DUP leader could
work together.

"We've already taken joint decisions, but that was in the context
of not having power," he said.

Both Mr McGuinness and Mr Paisley paid tribute to DUP assembly
member George Dawson, who died on Monday evening.

William Hay was appointed as the new speaker, replacing the
outgoing Eileen Bell.

In nominating the DUP assembly member, Mr Paisley said the
speaker in the next assembly would be from the nationalist

Demonstrators protesting against the war in Iraq were forcibly
removed by police after they attempted to block the arrival of Mr
Blair's motorcade.

The protesters, who had been standing in front of Parliament
Buildings, ran down the hill to the Carson Statue and lay down on
the road.

Ministers from the four main parties are taking the pledge of
office, which includes support for the police.

The return of devolved government follows an historic meeting in
March between DUP leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein president
Gerry Adams, where they agreed to share power.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said he was confident the
parties would make a go of it.

VIP guests at Stormont include US Senator Ted Kennedy, the DUP
leader's wife Baroness Paisley and Peggy McGuinness, the deputy
first minister's mother.

Also attending is Jeanette Ervine, the widow of Progressive
Unionist Party leader David Ervine who died in January.

The first meeting of the new power-sharing executive is scheduled
for later this week.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/08 10:52:22 GMT


Bertie Visits A Sign Of Changed Times

By Shane Harrison
BBC Northern Ireland Dublin correspondent

The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, is no stranger to Stormont and its
rolling grounds in east Belfast.

In 1997 shortly after burying his mother, he left Dublin by
helicopter for Castle Buildings in Stormont to continue
negotiating the Good Friday Agreement.

And while the DUP has insisted on some changes to the Agreement
in the intervening years, it remains the basis for devolution in
Northern Ireland.

Perhaps it's because people know that he invested so much in the
peace process at a difficult time for him personally that Bertie
Ahern always gets a good reception on his visits to Northern

The same can't be said about some of his predecessors as Irish
Republic prime minister.

DUP leader Ian Paisley threw snowballs at Sean Lemass in 1965 as
he made his way by car up the long avenue in Stormont for a
meeting with the Northern Ireland prime minister, Captain Terence

And in 1990 Charles Haughey, while addressing the Institute of
Directors on economic matters, had to listen to noisy heckles
outside the Europa Hotel from unionists protesting against the
Anglo-Irish Agreement and Dublin having a say in Northern
Ireland's internal affairs.

How times have changed!

Bertie Ahern, who is in the middle of an election campaign, knows
that his presence in Stormont, his meeting with Ian Paisley on
the banks of the Boyne on 11 May and his address to both houses
of parliament at Westminster four days later, will do him no harm
with the voters.

The three occasions will remind his electorate that he played a
key role in bringing peace, devolution and normality to Northern

But Bertie Ahern's Fianna Fail party didn't always have such a
cosy relationship with unionists.

In the past, many in Northern Ireland believed the Republic
wanted to gobble them up into a united Ireland, but few now hold
such views

When Eamon de Valera, another of Bertie Ahern's predecessors,
founded Fianna Fail in 1926 he had two aims: Irish unity and
restoring the Irish language.

Neither goal has been achieved, although the party continues to
pay lip-service to the desirability of both.

The violence of the Troubles forced Fianna Fail to confront its
rhetorical nationalism and to accept the principle that Northern
Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom as long as a
majority there consented to such an arrangement.

Bertie Ahern and Albert Reynolds, as former Fianna Fail prime
ministers, were both keen to reassure unionists that their party
accepted the consent principle.

This helped the party transform its relationship with the
majority community in Northern Ireland and develop relationships
on the island.

In the past, many in Northern Ireland believed the Republic
wanted to gobble them up into a united Ireland, but few now hold
such views.

Indeed, the south is seen less as a threatening animal and more
as a golden cow to be milked.

The Irish government, with its booming Celtic Tiger economy, is
helping the British government to fund the Northern Ireland
infrastructure deficit.

Bertie Ahern, who is famed for his negotiating skills, has played
a key role in all these changes - something that even his
political opponents acknowledge.

Even Ian Paisley, the scourge of many an Irish leader, speaks
highly of him.

So, Bertie Ahern will not to have to duck snowballs or any other
missiles as he makes his way to Stormont.

And not just because the weather is too warm for snow: it's also
because many people in Northern Ireland politics have grown to
respect the pint-drinking, sports-mad, man of the people.

The election result in the Republic's 24 May poll will show
whether voters in the south still think as fondly of him as many
north of the border do.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/08 08:51:51 GMT


If Edward Carson Could Talk...

By Nuala McCann
BBC News website

It is a great white wedding cake of a building, perched on the
hills overlooking Belfast.

If the walls of Parliament Buildings could talk, they would
whisper tales of intrigue and deception, of battles royal, of
brawls in the hall and snowballs flung in defiance across
Stormont's lawns.

The history of Northern Ireland is dominated by this building and
Prince of Wales Avenue sweeping down to the statue of old-time
unionist leader, Edward Carson: black, imperious, shaking a regal
finger at the world.

The original plans were for three buildings - law courts on one
side and a civil service building on the other - but in the end,
the money ran out.

The big white edifice on the hill stands alone, built in 1932 to
serve what unionist James Craig, later Lord Craigavon, once
boasted was "a Protestant parliament and a Protestant state".

A Liverpool architect dreamed up the Greek classical design. He
was a precise man and the building was 365 ft long - one foot for
every day of the year.

Italian craftsmen made the journey to Belfast to fashion the
ornate marble hall which became known as the Great Hall.

King George V opened the NI parliament in 1921, but sent the
Prince of Wales to declare the actual new building open in 1932.

Artist William Conor painted the original members of the
parliament. According to historical sources he was only paid œ131
6s for his effort, far short of the original œ200 that had been

During World War II, there were fears that the big white house on
the hill was a sure target for German bombers.

The white stone was painted black with a mix of bitumen and cow
manure. The roads in the grounds were camouflaged with ash and

The Northern Ireland government also considered removing Lord
Carson from his pedestal half way down Prince of Wales Avenue and
putting him away for safe keeping. But the sculptor reassured
them that he had fashioned a spare head - just in case.

During the 51 years of the Northern Ireland Parliament, only one
Bill sponsored by a non-unionist member was ever passed. Poet and
academic Tom Paulin wrote a poem about this, called Of Difference
Does it Make or The Wild Birds Act of 1931.

In 1965, DUP leader Ian Paisley pelted snowballs at the then
Irish Prime Minister Sean Lemass when he visited Stormont.

We had Sunningdale, the Ulster Workers' Strike - any amount of
controversy captured in grainy 1970s pictures of tractors
crawling up the tree-lined avenue in protest mode; politicians
shouting, gesticulating, shaking their heads or storming out the
doors and storming in.

But the winds of change blew through the tree-lined avenues and
kicked up heaps of leaves and great hulking bundles of entrenched

All has changed utterly.

Journalists remember the day when Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams
stood at a window and shouted out to the press corps gathered
below: "Get me a united Ireland or I'll jump!" He was only

But how might Lord Craigavon shiver at the sight of his life-size
statue in Stormont's Great Hall, appearing over the shoulder of
Mr Adams in televised Sinn Fein press conferences?

True, the building has seen dark moments. A fire, caused by an
electrical fault, destroyed the Assembly Chamber on 2 January
1995 but it was carefully restored.

The last years are a-flicker with sombre images of police Land
Rovers lining up the avenue as police went into raid Sinn Fein's
offices in what became known as Stormontgate

Even more recently, the photograph of loyalist Michael Stone
wrestled into submission in the doorway of Parliament Buildings,
tells a story that has not fully played out.

But there were moments of lightness too. Not least, those brought
by former NI Secretary, the late Mo Mowlam, who cast aside
ceremony, not to mention her wig, called her associates "babe",
indulged in widespread hugging and helped open up Stormont to

Those were the days of concerts. Remember the lark in the park?
Remember Elton John and the Eagles? How many of the old school
politicians spun in their graves as Rod Stewart rasped: "If ya
want my body and ya think I'm sexy" on Stormont's lawns.

Recent figures show that up to 40,000 tourists from 108 countries
around the world visit Parliament buildings every year.

Belfast artist Noel Murphy immortalised the modern assembly on
canvas. His work was unveiled in February 2003.

John Hume, the former SDLP leader, proved to be his favourite

"I wish more were like him," Murphy said at the time. "Most of
these politicians talked and talked, which meant it was harder to
paint them. If I could have had 107 other John Humes, it would
have made this painting much easier."

In December 2005, the old lady on the hill who seemed so far
removed from the ordinary people, opened her big iron gates to
thousands who travelled to Stormont to pay tribute to one of
Northern Ireland's greatest exports, footballing legend George

His funeral took place in the Great Hall. He was a boy from the
Cregagh estate who could never have dreamed his life.

And could anyone have ever dreamed a day when the Democratic
Unionists and Sinn Fein would be sharing power in a new Northern
Ireland Assembly?

Mr Paisley - Dr No - the man who spent decades saying "Never,
never, never" is now poised to lead his party into a power-
sharing coalition with his old enemy, Sinn Fein.

The honeymoon is over. What hopes for the new assembly and these
folks in their house on the hill?

It is a big white wedding cake of a building. But when it comes
to politics, can Stormont ever be the scene of a happy marriage?

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/08 05:54:44 GMT


Politicians React To Devolution

DUP leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness have
taken their pledge of office as devolution returns to Northern


I believe we're starting on a road which will bring us back to
peace and to prosperity.

And I would challenge the people of Northern Ireland to rise to
the challenge today and be determined that come what may, we'll
make this a country when all men and women will be equal under
the law and equally subject to the law.


We've already taken joint decisions, but that was in the context
of not having power.

All of that is going to change in the next couple of hours, and
by midday today, we're going to be in charge, and we're going to
be charged with the responsibility of governing in the interests
of the people.

I think we do so in the belief and the sure knowledge that we
have the overwhelming support of all of the people of Ireland for
what we're about to do.


It's going to stick, I believe, because the DUP and Sinn Fein -
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness on the one hand, Ian Paisley
and Peter Robinson on the other - these are the two most
polarised forces in Northern Ireland's politics, they have done
the deal and that's why I believe it's here to stay for good.


I think what today proves is that dialogue and perseverance and
tenacity and persistence can bring about results.

I want to thank everyone who contributed over a very long time in
making this day possible.

It's a good day for Ireland, it's a good day for all of the
people of this island.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/08 10:39:44 GMT


Power-Sharing 'Has Lessons For Other Conflicts': Blair

08/05/2007 - 11:47:46

The return of power-sharing between unionists and nationalists in
the North has lessons for other conflicts around the world,
British Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted today.

As he witnessed the swearing in of the Ian Paisley and Martin
McGuinness as the joint heads of the North's new devolved
government, Mr Blair said he always believed a deal was possible
if both men could be persuaded to talk to each other.

"I think there are definite lessons for other conflicts," he

"First of all, you have got to define the right political
framework. Secondly, you need to make sure that the external
players - in this case governments like the United States - are
working alongside the same track as the internal players who want

"The most important thing, though, is to find a space through the
absence of conflict where you can get people listening to each
other and talking to each other and then understanding."

As he reflected on his 10 years of trying to secure permanent
peace and stable government in the North, Mr Blair paid tribute
to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

He also insisted that even though some critics have claimed Iraq
will overshadow the achievements in the North Ireland, he was
right to go with his gut feeling.

"Ultimately, with some of these decisions they are so difficult
that you have to go with your instinct about what was right," he

"Sometimes the judgment is not made immediately. It is made over

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