05 April 2007

Politicians in handshake shock

Paisley & Ahern
The act of two politicians shaking hands is pretty mundane but when the handshake is between DUP leader Ian Paisley and Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern it is a news event

Mr Paisley arrived at Farmleigh House, Dublin, yesterday for talks with Mr Ahern. As he arrived he bellowed: "Good morning. I better shake hands with this man". There was a warm handshake with the Taoiseach with Mr Paisley slapping Mr Ahern affectionately on the right shoulder.

The meeting discussed the future relationship between the Irish Government and the new Stormont administration, also possibly the contribution from the Republic towards the economic peace dividend. Mr Paisley said: "I believe it is important to engage with our closest neighbour from a position of mutual respect and with assured confidence. Today, we can confidently state that we are making progress to ensure that our two countries can develop and grow side by side in a spirit of generous co-operation. "

Meanwhile in Belfast Sinn Féin announced the posts its ministers will hold in the devolved executive from next month. Conor Murphy, MP for Newry and Armagh and a former IRA prisoner, will be the new minister for regional development. Michelle Gildernew, MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, will be the agriculture minister. Catriona Ruane, a South Down assembly member, will be in charge of the education department, and Gerry Kelly, who escaped from the Maze prison in 1983, is taking a junior post in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister.

How times change: First the DUP and Sinn Fein agreeing to share power in the new executive, now Paisley fostering of good relations with the Republic. Mr Paisley has come a long way over the last 40 years: In the sixties he he was more likely to shout "No Surrender" then pelt a taoiseach with snowballs (as he did to Sean Lemass). The announcement of the posts Sinn Fein are due to take simply adds to the astonishing change of events in Northern Ireland.Not much more than a decade ago the IRA was still planting bombs

Here's hoping that the two fromer implacable foes can make it work for Northern Ireland


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