IT’S 2019 – NOT 1985 – By Brian Rowan

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There is something quite ludicrous and laughable about a Paisley advising anyone to “dial down the megaphone diplomacy”. 

This is not 1985 – not that period in our politics when the thunderous voice of the late Ian Paisley senior shouted down the Anglo-Irish Agreement in those guldering words of NEVER,NEVER,NEVER, neverrrrrr. 

Politics today is in a completely different place: ‘All changed, changed utterly’ – to quote from W B Yeats and his words borrowed for a headline in the Sunday Business Post.

Yet comments about Brexit and Boris Johnson from Tanaiste Simon Coveney at Stormont on Friday managed to wind up the North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Junior.

In a tweet, another DUP MP, Sammy Wilson, said he would be asking who gave Mr Coveney  permission to use Parliament Buildings for a press conference “to attack the UK Prime Minister”.


SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood tweeted a three word response: “Wise up, Sammy.”

Alliance leader Naomi Long used five words: “Catch yourself on, Sammy. Seriously.”

There was no parade by Simon Coveney on Friday;  nothing like the Boris and Arlene stroll earlier this month through this place of pantomime politics. No waving over the balcony of a pretend parliament; a place kept alive because the parties have maintained a presence in the building, and because a government relying on DUP votes at Westminster has kept the doors open.

This farce should have been closed down long ago until there is some agreement to restore the Executive and Assembly; if there is an agreement to do so.


Simon Coveney has been part of the Talks since the summer of 2017; part of that long, tedious, tiresome effort to rebuild the politics of Stormont. He brings credibility and detail and measured words to that process. His goal is a functioning Executive. The charge/notion of Dublin interference is so 1985

On Friday, before his news conference began, he chatted briefly with a few of us about the cricket, then he took questions on the talks and Brexit.

Remember this. What he said on the latter will chime with the thinking of a majority of MLAs at Stormont and the remain position here that emerged in both the 2016 referendum and was confirmed in the 2019 European Election.

The idea that he needs permission to speak is the stuff of 30-plus years ago. 

There won’t be a Stormont Parliament without the full involvement of the two governments, including Simon Coveney and the new Secretary of State Julian Smith.

Why? Because things here have changed – changed utterly.

Brexit is a balloon without a string. No one knows where it will land.

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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at


  1. I see Sammy Wilson has ‘tweeted’ (why is that even a word?) that we will leave on, when was it, yes, the 31st of October.

    One of the interesting things about this is that he uses the word ‘we’ as if he was part of the government, or at least part of the collective which plans to leave the EU en masse. Well, fair enough, I think of myself as a Unionist too. But I have long given up hope that Northern Ireland is as British as Finchley–it may not even be as British as the current Irish cricket team–and that what happens on the other side of the Irish Sea will happen here.

    If Mr. Wilson is correct in his assertion that we will leave on the 31st of October then I hope he is not too surprised when he discovers that he is not part of the ‘we’.

    Yes… things have changed.

  2. Kevin Shannon on

    Good man Brian. When will the Sammys and Ians ever twig that Simon Coveney is probably one of the best friends they could wish for. Incidentally, I missed the ‘parade’ round Stormont. Have you recorded it, a Ian Óig?

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