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Sporting chance of political agreement

Published 12/05/2009

The announcement of Belfast International Airport’s £10m facelift was greeted with a general thumbs up by the great and the good attending the launch at the Hilton Templepatrick.

First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were on hand to formally announce the investment.

General agreement all round that the posh new image should provide a boost to tourism and the beleaguered construction sector — even though passenger numbers have been hit by the recession.

But while it was all handshakes, smiles and easy banter between the DUP and Sinn Fein men, there were also worrying signs.

McGuinness couldn’t resist the opportunity that the Wednesday morning press conference afforded to gloat about the easy passage of his favoured team, Manchester United, into the UEFA Champions League final.

He had supported the Reds for 50 years, he told the audience with visible pride.

But whether for the benefit of visiting executives from BIA’s Spanish parent company abertis — based in Barcelona — or to get one up on the First Minister, he added that he would be strongly supporting the Catalan giants in their match that evening against Chelsea — the team Robinson that follows. With Chelsea exiting the competition controversially to a stoppage-time away goal after having three good penalty shouts turned down, any joint engagements on Thursday might have been a rather more frosty affair.

It is to be hoped that the beautiful game won’t sidetrack the province’s top two politicians from their “number one goal” of getting the local economy back on track.

Perhaps Robinson will take solace in the fact that he is, in truth, only half a Chelsea supporter.

He’s on record as saying he also supports their fierce London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Only a politician could get away with hedging his bets as outrageously as that.

Belfast Telegraph

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