Friday, April 04, 2003

Republic of Ireland to rejoin UK

[updated] A war summit between Bush and Blair on a windswept Atlantic outpost, with some peripheral attendees. No, not the Azores summit but a suddenly announced meeting between the Tony and Dubya in Northern Ireland next week [try this link if you don't have a NYT registration]. And playing the role of Spanish PM Aznar will be Irish PM Bertie Ahern. Bertie has been having difficulty explaining the Republic's "neutral in favour of the war" policy for the last few weeks, but in terms of dealing with the widespread public opposition in Ireland to this policy, this summit will count (as George said to Elaine when she had the J Peterman stock options) as STICKING IT! Since the Republic has spent most of its history laying claim to Northern Ireland, previous occupants of Bertie's position would have viewed having a war summit on the island as a deliberate provocation by Britain. Can there be nowhere else in England, Scotland, or Wales available? But instead of a good sulk in Dublin, Bertie rushes up to Belfast to be part of the effort. I suppose one interpretation is that Blair demanded a constructive statement on Israel and the Palestinians before the war began, and now wants renewed US engagement in NI. But we suspect that having a US President enter the NI peace process in a hail of inevitable protests is not what they have in mind. And down in the Republic, we ask: if we speak the same language, watch the same TV shows, shop in the same stores, and now have the same foreign policy, just what is it that makes us different from Britain anymore?

UPDATE: More evidence that Bertie's ultimate goal is just to knock that pesky "Northern" part of the country name United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland -- he's now recycling old John Major lines in his speeches. Check out this rhetorical masterpiece from his speech to a conference on Friday morning:

When we met last year, it was in a period of uncertainty - in more ways than one. Now, at least, one other thing is certain: that is, that we face difficult economic challenges in the period ahead. For that reason, the title of this years Conference is well chosen: In order to thrive, we do have to survive the challenges of the period ahead. And that does bring us back to basics.

We draw your attention to the concluding words, back to basics. This is a phrase that results in laughter for anyone who followed British politics in the 1990s, because it was Maggie successor John Major's phrase of choice in his effort to rebuild Tory popularity with the people -- except almost as soon as he uttered it, his government was hit by a wave of financial and sex scandals (the latter featuring some typically bizarre British aspects that we may blog about later).

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