It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the Waterfront Hall. Indeed, it was back in the days when Jeffrey Donaldson was still in the UUP and the party had the place permanently reserved as a venue for regular verbal punch-ups between David Trimble and the growing army of rebels within his own ranks.
It was an altogether different bunch of rebels last night, an army of united-Irelands, many of whom had travelled a very long way (maybe even passing Prince Charles as he visited this part of his future kingdom) to debate, among other things, a motion calling for the ‘practical planning for Irish unity to begin now’.
The conference programme may have referred to the six counties, but the reality was that this was the first time that an ard fheis had been held in the UK: in a conference centre a stone’s throw away from the very courts that had dispatched many IRA members to prison and a mere black taxi ride from the offices Martin McGuinness shares with Peter Robinson in the once hated Stormont. A very unlikely setting to prepare for unity!