It had previously been reported by the Belfast Telegraph that the meeting would be postponed until September because Brown was unavailable. That might have meant the postponement of the North-South Ministerial Council as well, as unionists would have objected to a North-South meeting going ahead without an East-West counterbalance.
As it is, the North-South Ministerial Council will go ahead in Armagh on Tuesday.
It’s not difficult to see why the occasion might be a problem for Brown. Several varieties of nationalist will be there, all with demands to make of him, and England’s lack of representation can only highlight the West Lothian Question.
The photocall will be a significant document of the political shifts that have occured in these islands in recent months.
Brown’s presence means the event is likely to be more high-powered than recent meetings of the Council. He will presumably attend with the new Northern Ireland’s Secretary, Shaun Woodward, and perhaps another Cabinet Minister depending on the agenda.
Bertie Ahern will probably attend with the Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, and maybe another related Minister.
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness will certainly both be there.
Alex Salmond will want to take the opportunity to attend along with a colleague, perhaps Nicola Sturgeon.
Rhodri Morgan will presumably represent Wales if he is fit enough, but if not Plaid’s Ieuan Wyn Jones may find this is one of his first official duties as Deputy First Minister. No doubt, he will want to be on the delegation, in any case.
There will also be delegations from the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
It will be interesting to see who Brown brings with him. Will the Northern Ireland Secretary be the only English Minister there?