It is hard to think of a time since Irish independence when the political situation on this island dictated the very shape of the British government.
But as November 24 draws closer, this year is shaping up to produce such an event. As pressure builds on British prime minister Tony Blair to make way for his successor – almost certainly chancellor Gordon Brown – it is increasingly clear that this decision rests in the hands of people on this island.
I don’t think it’s cynical to think that Blair wants a strong legacy, I’m sure most people in his position would and frankly it’s not always a bad thing. The actions of Blair, especially in recent days, suggest to me that he is trying to draw a line in Iraq, start a fresh and move on. In Northern Ireland his decision to spearhead talks alongside Bertie Ahern on devolution suggest that he has quickly realised his original plan can’t work without a push; who ever believed that putting Unionists and Republicans in a room together would end in them setting aside differences? It will take more than that, and time is indeed running out.