THIS day last week we were all glad to see an end to the talks that had been going on at Hillsborough Castle, and going on for far too long!
Since then we have been learning the details of what was finally agreed and some of what was agreed has begun to be acted upon. A deal is an arrangement that has benefits for all those involved. The terms have to be favourable and distributed fairly. Trust is required when deals are made, and particularly so when deals are struck between former enemies.
In our Province we have had a difficult path to walk concerning agreements - deals - call them what you may, because these transactions have come on the back of years of conflict. Political deals are tricky enough without the added factor of terrorism.
But that is what we had to face, and face it we have. None of us has got everything we would have liked, but we have all now got a society free from the tyranny that, until this past decade, plagued us all.
It is not easy to be magnanimous in the circumstances we found ourselves in, but flesh and blood is worth going the extra mile for. Certainly, to know that the youngsters of today will learn about 'The Troubles', is better by far than that they should have to endure them, as did previous generations.
What is important now is that the deal is enacted. All this talk of clever tricks and cunning plans is to undermine the chance of its success. If a transaction has been done then it should not be the business of either side to act with mischievous intent nor to attempt to paint themselves as the ingenious brain that knows more than everyone else.
Sleight of hand will never build community confidence, but it will reveal a palm for all to read. If the deal is worthy, own it, don't ambush it!
Who is in charge?
ONE may be forgiven for wondering who really is in charge in Europe when even the President of America isn't sure!
Yesterday the first EU summit under Herman Van Rompuy was held in Brussels. No less than 27 heads of governments were received in the beautiful Solvay Library and so after nine tiresome years of trying, the new European regime is off to a struggling start.
There are four bosses in Europe, each one determined to be the top dog – the indisputable leader of the pack.
Thanks to the Lisbon Treaty we now have a European Council president , Van Rompuy of Belgium. We already have a European Commission president, Barroso of Portugal, just starting his second five-year term; a six-monthly rotating European Union president, currently Zapatero of Spain; and finally, a European Parliament president held by the former Polish PM, Buzek. Confused? Ah, yes! That is all part of what we know and love about the EU!
It is this dense taffy that ensures Europe remains firmly stuck in its tin rather than dispensed like free-flowing, colourful dolly mixtures.
And, Europe with all its nations, cultures, history and zest ought to be imparting its colour to this generation rather than this hard-to-digest offering!
Turf wars and rival presidents are allowing Europe to be sidelined and overlooked as we hurtle towards a G2 (US & China) rather than a G8 world order. This was highlighted at Copenhagen when the European leaders were having their coffee break - that was when President Obama paid them a visit. Now, I'd say that a wee coffee table isn't quite in the same league as a negotiating table! Last week Obama announced that he was too busy to schedule the summit planned with the Europeans in Madrid this May. The State Department says one reason for his absence is that under Lisbon the US doesn't know with whom they should be dealing. The face of Europe on the world stage that Lisbon was supposed to provide is still missing – not a bad thing in my book, mind you!
Europe is too diverse and too independent for a singular face. The British Isles alone have a history of separation from Europe that dates back to the days of the Roman Empire and courses through Reformation times and on into modern history. In fact, Europe is most unified when that unity is a natural bond, not a forced political union. Within the European Union of today there is no agreement as to how Europe should define its role in our world.
That is, in my opinion, a healthy sign and probably our greatest defence against the darker side of nationalism which, when under severe threat turns into a fascist monster. Of course, Europe has not always wanted the British Isles either! One Charles de Gaulle was particularly put out by the idea of inviting Britain into a union!
As a matter of fact, my own scepticism was reinforced when entering the European Parliament for the first time, as I had to let the authorities know that the Union Flag was flying upside down! It would seem in all the years since, the European Union has yet to achieve a real sense of unification, just the ability to legislate by the ton and to deliver not one but four presidents!