Saturday, May 07, 2005

UK Election: 5

The election aftermath has already been extensively blogged elsewhere so just a couple of additional points here. First, we know that in the sports context it's taken for granted that everyone can talk about "giving 110%" and similar waffle but our inner sense of numeracy is a bit more disturbed when politicians do it. So in what looks like a clear downgrading of importance of the London Cabinet position dealing with Northern Ireland, the new Secretary Peter Hain will have responsibility for Northern Ireland and Wales. Or maybe it can be spun as an upgrade for Wales? But anyway, Hain does an unconvincing job of addressing concerns about dilution:

[BBC] The new Northern Ireland secretary has said that combining his job with that of Welsh secretary will not mean any diminished effort in his role.
Outgoing Leader of the Commons Peter Hain is replacing Paul Murphy in a prime ministerial cabinet reshuffle.

The DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] has said the dual portfolio means the job of Northern Ireland Secretary is being downgraded.

But Mr Hain said he would be talking to key political players at the weekend and be in Northern Ireland on Monday.

Perhaps the weekend chats are meant to free up some time later next week for Wales. Slightly more seriously, we wonder if the DUP is prepared for the possibility that they've arrived at the top just to find that the rest of the world might not care that much about Northern Irish politics anymore. We were struck listening to the DUP victory speeches on Friday with their references to how the "Irish, British, and American governments" need to recognise the new reality in Northern Ireland. Well, if the low key St Patrick's Day festivities in Washington DC didn't send a message about the American ranking of NI politics, maybe they should take note of the fact that Dubya's envoy to NI is doing it as a part time job:

Speaking at William and Mary College in Virginia, where he is vice-provost for international affairs, Mr Reiss said that he was receiving a "blow by blow account" of the election from the US consul to Northern Ireland, Dean Pitman.

Someone else giving 110%, it seems. By the way, we spent all of Friday listening to the results come in on Radio Ulster, and reading Slugger O'Toole, so the envoy could just as easily have spoken to us and spared the consul's time.

Finally, a little while ago we raised the possibility that Gerry Adams had missed some of the Biblical subtlety in a statement of Ian Paisley's. Granting that we might have been temporarily insane at that time, we nevertheless want to give Gerry credit for a subtle allusion of his own in his appraisal of Peter Hain's predecessor:

Paul Murphy was a safe pair of hands for the British Labour government here but he didn't break any Delft over the matters affecting us.

A lesser politician might merely have made reference to china or crockery, but Gerry goes for the historically literate reference to Delft. But could Gerry be playing an even wittier game? Here's what we find with a little research on the city:

The association of the House of Orange with Delft began when Willem van Oranje (Dutch for 'William of Orange'), nicknamed William the Silent, took up residence there in 1572.

From there of course a tumultuous sequence of events unfolded linking Dutch, British, and Irish history -- an essential part of the explanation of how Ireland got where it is today. Perhaps Gerry was trying to tell us that it's the Orange side of the equation which needs the biggest shakeup.

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