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Last Updated: Monday, 16 July 2007, 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK
Snapping left to summit photocall
By Martina Purdy
BBC NI political correspondent

"Peace, perfect peace!" declared an exuberant Ian Paisley, standing beside Martin McGuinness at Stormont.

That surprisingly controversial group photograph in full...

The two ministers were welcoming Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, among others, to the British-Irish Council meeting at Parliament Buildings.

And Ian Paisley was clearly relishing his new role, as he insisted Northern Ireland was no longer at the periphery but "at the centre" of things.

This was an interesting choice of words considering the DUP was shut out of the British-Irish Council in 1999.

Alex Salmond promptly declared his delight also to be at the centre, having spent years on the Scottish periphery.

Of course with Scottish and Welsh ministers looking on, Mr Brown was hardly going to announce extra funds for Northern Ireland
Gordon Brown looked more sombre when he arrived at the West Wing, alongside the Taoiseach.

Perhaps Mr Brown was not relishing the prospect of his first public handshake with his political nemesis, Mr Salmond.

The Scottish nationalist leader in fact looked more pleased than anyone to be at the summit, his chance to remind the Labour prime minister of the new post-election order that brought him to the first minister's office in Edinburgh.

Indeed, Mr Salmond in his remarks to the media pointedly noted the summit's seating arrangements had highlighted the diversity of the ministers, a subtle hint no doubt that times had changed.

By contrast, the prime minister looked a little bee-stung when asked about the peace package for Northern Ireland, replying that 51.5bn had been promised already, ignoring criticism that there is little new money in this figure.

Of course with Scottish and Welsh ministers looking on, Mr Brown was hardly going to announce extra funds for Northern Ireland.

Overall, the summit passed off smoothly - less so, we are told, the rehearsal on Sunday when there was quite a bit of friction about who did what and where.

When asked later about the tensions over the photograph, Mr Salmond, insisted he was interested in running Scotland, not "tittle tattle"
One insider said there was "squabbling" over a number of issues.

The photocall became a bone of contention, said one source.

It had been planned that Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness would appear in the front row only alongside the prime minister and taoiseach, with the ministers from the other administrations tucked in behind.

But, said the source, two "fiesty Scottish" women officials insisted the Scottish first minister should be upfront.

There was also a dispute about whether they should all stand or if the key players should sit.

Bertie Ahern, Martrin McGuinness, Ian Paisley and Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown said he was pleased devolution was back
It would appear the feisty Scots got their way and a compromise was worked out.

A close inspection of the photograph will see Alex Salmond standing in the first row, along with the Welsh deputy first minister.

When asked later about the tensions over the photograph, Mr Salmond, insisted he was interested in running Scotland, not "tittle tattle".

Mr Brown looked happy enough at the family photograph, although Mr Salmond was beside the taoiseach, rather than him.


The prime minister even broke into twinkly laughter as Ian Paisley whispered in his ear.

As Mr Paisley was busily pointing to the main chandelier in the Great Hall, one might assume he was recounting the colourful history of the ornament, a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm to the Royal Family.

The present however was promptly hid when the First World War broke out with Germany.

Windsor Castle only noticed it was missing in 1992 after the fire there.

Its return was sought, but Stormont, where it had hung since 1932, refused to give it up.

As for the prime minister, he left the summit at 1125, missing the news conference and the celebratory lunch.

Mr Brown was headed for Germany for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Taoseach was hot on his heels out of Stormont.

One source from the British side said Mr Brown would have stayed longer but the Taoiseach's office had insisted Bertie Ahern had to be away by 1130.

This however was news to one Dublin official. While not denying the Taoiseach had diary commitments, the official certainly rejected the notion that Dublin was responsible for the early departure of the prime minister.

Still, by Northern Ireland standards, a perfect peace today at Stormont.

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