Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Barry and Basil Show - Stormont

It's not often you get to walk up the steps in front of Stormont (technically Parliament Buildings) and go in through the main doors. In fact, after the Stone-got-caught-in-the-door incident, you no longer get to go up the steps at the front at all. Instead, you're routed through a perspex security hut - looks a bit like a car wash - to the bottom right hand side of the building, which processes all visitors, conveys their belongings through a "airport" scanner, and allows you out the far side if you're deemed to be clean.

Great Hall at Stormont (Parliament Building)

After Monday night's reception in the Long Gallery, the two hosting MLAs volunteered to take folk down to the main Assembly Chamber.

And so the Barry and Basil show began.

While coming from quite different political backgrounds, Barry McElduff (Sinn Fein) and Basil McCrea (UUP) are among the more frequent speakers and contributors to the local assembly.

Maybe it's their shared dislike for the DUP, but the pair of them made very relaxed, humorous and interesting tour guides, outlining the history (and rebuilding) of the chamber, pointing out some of the features and explaining a few secrets.

So look out for Barry McElduff pinching a mint from speaker William Hay's stash as he comes in from voting in the left-hand no lobby. It was encouraging to see politicians enthusiastically explaining their role and the building they occupy. And good to see a bit of proper cooperation between sometimes political foes.

burr walnut in the Assembly Chamber up at Stormont

The Assembly's education guide explains:

In January 1995 a fire, caused by an electrical fault, completely destroyed the Chamber and the opportunity was taken, not only to restore the Chamber to its original grandeur, but to upgrade the entire building.

In order to ensure the burr walnut walls could be replaced in the Chamber, all the English walnut available at the time of restoration was purchased in advance. Like the originals, the new walnut wall panels are inlaid with an intricate, hand carved, ebony, Greek key pattern.

If you ever get a chance to pop up to Stormont, particularly as part of a tour group, do take the opportunity to find out how it all works. One word of caution: there are a lot of "No photography" signs around ... though not always anyone to police them!

Ceiling in the Great Hall, Stormont (Parliament Building)


Grannymar said...

I was taken for a personal tour of Stormont and was able to wander the corridors and open doors to all the rooms. I sat in the Speakers chair and I was even in behind it.

We finished our day with a meal in the restaurant which was very enjoyable.

VIP for a day, that was me.

Alan in Belfast said...

Winning an Irish Blog Award has its perks!!!