Remarks by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dermot Ahern TD at a Reception in honour of the Diplomatic Corps - Iveagh House, 11th November 2004 Part II
At home in Ireland, the implementation of all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement remains a priority for the Government. It is now very clear what is necessary to achieve this. All of us, as politicians, must come up to the mark. And I am certain that our people, North and South, will not look kindly on us if we let this decisive and historic opportunity pass.
We need to see an early restoration of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, with a genuine and lasting commitment on all sides to power-sharing. We are, of course, open to practical improvements in the operation of the institutions, but we will not contemplate any weakening of the fundamental architecture of the Agreement.
There must, very importantly, be a complete end to violence in all its forms, and also a decommissioning of paramilitary weapons. While reflecting encouraging trends, last week’s report from the Intdependent Monitoring Commission showed that work still remains to be done in ending the scourge of paramilitarism. And we need to complete the policing project, and substantially advance the demilitarisation programme.
For over a decade now, Ireland has enjoyed unprecedented economic growth and development. Underpinning this success is a commitment to macroeconomic stability, fiscal discipline, and a focus on key sectors such as new technologies. Of crucial importance has been the social partnership developed since 1987.
As Members of the Diplomatic Corps you play an important role in reporting on our economy, in building commercial and business contacts and in developing trade and investment links. In this, I would like you to regard my Department as a resource. As you extend your network of contacts, please feel free to avail of the local knowledge that we can put at your disposal.
One of the legacies of our poor economic performance in the past has been emigration, which has touched nearly all Irish families. While it has positive aspects – as is underscored by the recent contribution of returned emigrants to our economy - we acknowledge that it has presented many of our people with particular challenges.
I attach great importance to maintaining close links with our communities abroad. The Government’s commitment and support for our emigrants, in particular our more vulnerable ones, is firm, is growing and is long-term. To give greater practical impetus to this, an Irish Abroad Unit has recently been established within my Department.
All of you are aware of the huge significance of culture, both in itself and in promoting dialogue and understanding. I would like to highlight two forthcoming cultural projects in which my Department is involved and on which we would value your co-operation. In October 2005, a major international conference on Irish Studies at Overseas Universities is being organized in Florence and, in 2006, a celebration of the centenary of the birth of Samuel Beckett.
I would like to thank you again for joining me here, including those of you who have travelled from outside Ireland. I look forward, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, to working closely with all of you.
I would now like to make a toast to the Heads of State represented here tonight.
10 November 2004