Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

If only Peter and Martin could let on they were bosom buddies

Political tension: Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness

Was I the only one who felt it a bit odd that Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness had a meeting with each other in New York?

That's the two blokes – well, leaders, you know what I mean – who live here, right?

They've been in America together (in the apart sense of the word) hobnobbing with top businessmen and touching base with a chap whom they hope will sort out all the nonsense here.

Some of that nonsense involves the putative Peace Centre, which Martin's lot wanted at the Maze site.

But Peter's lot aren't keen on that and said that, because of Sinn Fein's backing for a parade commemorating dead IRA members, they could forget it.

In political science, this is known as tit-for-tat. Though it can be abbreviated.

It just seems such a shame and so typical, that when they go to Americashire to drum up support for jobs, they arrive bickering with each other and have to have a private meeting to sort things out.

Did they not travel together on the same plane? Could they not have talked then?

Or would they have ended up saying: "You're not having the window seat because of that time you had a whole family-sized bag of Minstrels and didn't even offer me one"?

Watch my lips here: 'Row breaks out over peace centre' isn't the sort of headline that creates a good impression of progress. It just makes outsiders shake their heads and say: "Oh, for pity's sake."

Thankfully, while they're in America, the chaps are having meetings with more people than just themselves.

They're holding discussions with US diplomat Richard Haass who is coming to Belfast shortly to chair all-party talks on important issues such as flags and parading that the rest of the world regards as vaguely loony.

Well, good luck with that. Dr Haass is in a win-win situation here. If he doesn't get anywhere, who can blame him? If there was an easy way out, someone here might have spotted it.

But sometimes folks will only listen to someone from outside, which gives Doc Haass the chance to play the cavalry coming over the hill to save Northern Ireland from being scalped – by itself.

First Minister Robinson at least has a sense of perspective when he says the peace centre palaver isn't as important as securing investment and jobs.

Businesses are a bit funny that way though. They're wary of stepping in where everyone is shouting at each other.

But Peter and Martin are pretty experienced now at putting on the happy face together. Maybe they'll even sit next to each other on the plane journey back.

By and large, these two lads have made a pretty good job of rubbing along with each other. Given their respective backgrounds, there's pretty good scope for the rest of the world thinking: "Well, if they can do it, so can the whole of society."

But if they arrive 'with issues' and have to have a private meeting to sort things out, it kinda sends out the wrong signals.

It's like a married couple at a party bickering in the cloakroom or chasing each other with sticks round the shrubbery.

Everyone else thinks: "Something ain't right here." But if we can at least pretend that everything's fine, we might fool the world. And even ourselves.

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