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Crunch time for self-rule

Latest update : 2007-12-28

FRANCE 24's Eve Irvine saw polls close in Belfast at 2200 GMT.

 

Reporter's Notebook

Thursday, March 8 - 10 am 

Having spent a good few hours yesterday at the Northern Irish Assembly at Stormont just outside Belfast City one thing I have to say I was surprised at was the facilities available in the Assembly. It hasn't been open as an Assembly for the last four and a half years but there is a notably well-run and well-stocked canteen with great food at seriously low prices. Security men on the door tell me though that the two restaurants on the second floor have been closed now for some time; Still...

 

Another interesting little fact that the security personnel gave me: the Assembly is called Parliament Buildings with an 's,' when in fact there is only one building. Why? Well, the plan was to have two other buildings on the large flat sweeps of grass that border the front of it but money ran out before these could be constructed. A big dome should also have crowned the top of the building but alas the 365-foot long construction - a foot for every year - had already consumed its budget by the time it got to the fourth floor.

 

Another thing I noticed this morning - the national dailies of Ireland and England aren't giving any space to the Northern Ireland vote today. The British Guardian doesn't mention it at all, though they have run an article about the upcoming French elections with a piece on Ségolène Royal!

 

The Irish Times has it just as a brief on the front page and one article inside, unless I missed something. The British Times just gives it one brief on a left-hand page. Local papers here in the province are dealing with it but it's not taking over their full front pages either.

 

Wednesday, March 7 - 9 pm 

I've been busy all day doing liveshots for the newscasts, so I haven't had much time to reflect. But here are a few things people told me today as they went to the polls:

 

About the DUP's Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness

"They do get on behind closed doors. They do speak, so it should work."

 

About Northern Ireland and Europe:

"We've gone back in time, we've not come forward. If we stay in the past we'll be finished. Here the politicans are still talking about a United Ireland and that's out of date now. It's senseless. We're part of Europe now and need to, have to move on and get with Europe and become more a part of it or we will be totally left behind economically. We can't waste any more time."

 

About immigration: 

"Every other person here now is foreign, so they will force change. The parties won't be able to get them to vote along the same lines as they are campaigning now. They'll have to change, so so will Northern Ireland."

 

 
 
Monday, March 5 - 10:40 pm
We've spent our second day in Belfast and still have the same impression as on our initial arrival: that the elections here are a seriously quiet affair. Do we, the outside world, see these elections as more of a crucial step in the region's future than people in the province itself? Posters are rare, and while the media is covering the event it's not the only thing people are talking about....
 
People tell us that they will turn out to vote, and the feeling on the ground is that most people are willing to accept concessions in order to get their own government after years of direct rule from London.
 
As one man put it: "People's ideals haven't really changed, but they're willing to accept lots in order to get peace."
News on the radio this evening spoke of a visit by Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, who visited the strictly loyalist (as in loyal to Britain) Orange Order. At the event, Hain once again reiterated his mantra that by March 26 - deadline for the republican Sinn Fein and their unionist rivals to agree on a power-sharing government - it's "devolution or dissolution" for Northern Ireland.
 
But the leader of the main unionist party, Ian Paisley, still has not committed to the date. For many this is his tactic to leave him with better bargaining powers to get more money from London.

 

Date created : 2007-03-08

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