Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Leaders march to same tune for Cameron's stimulus package

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

At last, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness feel that they have some leverage with the British Government.

It is provided by the combination of the G8 summit and the marching season; the backroom teams feel that David Cameron wants both to go well and is prepared to offer something to ensure a smooth package.

That is why the mood music changed so abruptly on Tuesday, when the First and deputy First Minister met Secretary of State Theresa Villiers  and the Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore.

Instead of lambasting the prime minister as the worst in memory, Mr McGuinness talked about progress and high hopes of success on economic aid, parades and a range of other issues.

Sources seem confident that the Government will announce an economic stimulus before the G8 in June – almost whatever happens.

They are relaxed about Theresa Villiers's statements linking Government aid to progress on a shared society and ending sectarianism.

The feeling is that their contribution doesn't have to include a full Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) document, or even progress on big, difficult issues, like integrating education. Yet they are aware that the planned economic conference in the autumn could be damp squib if June and the intervening months are filled with marching disputes and street violence.

Our ministers are past-masters at getting the most out of a situation where they have a prime minister's attention and he needs their co-operation.

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