Minister Cowen's address to the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis Killarney, Saturday 11 October 2003
We can no longer delude ourselves that the harsh realities a world away are without real consequences for our own people. For example, success or failure in Afghanistan can determine quantity and price of heroin on our streets.
These harsh realities are staggering in their magnitude. Yet at the close of this 21st Century we have the knowledge and the means to still make this century a meaningful time in history.
The question is do we have the wisdom and the will?
With over 6 billion people living on the planet;
Half the people on earth are not part of the new economy as they live on less than $2 per day.
Another billion people on less than $1 per day.
A billion people go to bed hungry every night.
A quarter of the world population never get a clean glass of water.
One woman dies every minute in childbirth.
The 191 Governments who are members of the UN adopted the Millennium Goals in the year 2000. The world community set itself goals and targets to tackle this situation. Ireland fully supports the Secretary General in this hugely important task. He has reported that serious progress is being made. The Millennium Development Goals can be achieved if the political will can be maintained and intensified.
To build a world of expanding freedom and opportunity it is the responsibility of wealthy countries to spread the benefits and shrink the burdens. The resumption of talks which stalled at Cancun recently must become a priority in the reform in the world trading system which will greatly influence our success or failure in addressing these major problems.
Since we last met Ireland has completed its 2 year term on the Security Council. Our strong performance was widely recognised, including appreciation from many NGO Organisations.
The reality is that we did make a big difference during our time on the Council. For instance, we worked successfully for consensus on Resolution 1441 regarding Iraq. We promoted a common approach on the Middle East in favour of a two state solution. Ireland's UN Ambassador, Richard Ryan, chaired the sanctions committee on Angola which helped pave the way for the ending to the Civil War there.
Unfortunately, the consensus in the Security Council on Iraq did not carry forward into the New Year. Coalition forces invaded Iraq without a further UN Resolution being passed. We made it clear at the time of the adoption of Resolution 1441 in the previous October that regardless of the disagreement among members of the Council as to whether such a Resolution was legally necessary, we believed a second Resolution would provide the widest possible legitimacy and support for such action. That has remained our consistent position on this action since then. For that reason we did not participate.
Criticism was levelled against the Government for our decision to allow over flight and landing facilities at Shannon. I emphasise at this point that the consistent advice of various Attorneys General to successive Irish Governments on this point is that the provision of such facilities does not in international law constitute a participation by Ireland in a military action.
The Government went to the Dail as we promised we would and the Dail approved our decision. It was the right decision and it took full account of Ireland's interests. The Dail agreed that Ireland should not adopt a position of hostility towards the United States that no other country including those outspoken in their opposition at the Security Council deemed necessary to take. The illogicality of our domestic opponents position on this question of the provision of facilities is best demonstrated by the fact that when they were criticising us about our decision, they were praising other countries who had decided to do the same as ourselves.
The challenge for the international community now is to bring about the swiftest possible orderly transfer of authority to the Iraqi people. The responsibility for deciding how this will be done rests with the UN Security Council. Ireland believes they must discharge this responsibility and we want to see a central role for the UN in the re-construction and
restoration of sovereignty to Iraq. We support the UN Secretary General in this matter.
Between now and December we will seek to finalise with fellow member states a new constitutional treaty for the EU. The Convention has provided a basis for our work and we are confident that we can achieve an outcome consistent with our own interests and the continuing central role that the EU plays in our national life. I believe that the last Referendum confirmed that the Irish people recognise that in any objective analysis our interests are inextricably linked to our continuing committed membership of an enlarging European Union which provide further opportunities for this, one of the most open economies in the world. Expanding an internal market means more trade for Ireland and more jobs at home in an increasingly competitive economic environment to which we must continue to adapt as we have done successfully up to now.
As we take on the Presidency of the European Union on the first of January next we articulate the EU's common positions on all external relations matters. It will afford us an opportunity to make a distinctive contribution in the 6 months of our Presidency to many important issues, such as EU-UN relations including development in the Western Balkans and the Middle East where we call on all sides to implement the roadmap drawn up to provide for two states Palestine and Israel, living side by side within secure borders as the only possible permanent solution to a conflict that brings continuing tragedy to all sides in the region.
In the past year we have set out a detailed roadmap to bring about in our own peace process the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Both Governments have set out the requirements of peace and stability.
The obligation to create the circumstances in which peace and stability become a reality, and in which politically motivated violence becomes forever a thing of the past, rests on everyone. Some parties are, of course better placed than others directly to persuade those engaged in violence to desist. And some have, over recent years, clearly demonstrated their willingness and success in doing so. However, all have an important role to play in demonstrating their commitment to the operation of political institutions that are characterised by durability, effectiveness and inclusiveness. The best way of ensuring that peace remains permanent is by demonstrating that politics works.
The Agreement remains the template for political progress, has been endorsed by the people of Ireland, North and South, and is the only sustainable basis for a fair and honourable accommodation between all traditions.
The political institutions across all three strands are the democratic core of the Agreement.
The Agreement envisaged that all of its institutional and constitutional arrangements would be interlocking and interdependent. The two Governments believe that the institutions should be protected against arbitrary interruption and interference. Both Governments and the parties have responsibilities to ensure the full and stable operation of all the institutions of the Agreement, including the North/South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council.
Five years after the Agreement, the transition to exclusively democratic means must now be completed. Ongoing paramilitary activity, sectarian violence, and any criminality masquerading as a political cause, are all corrosive of the trust and confidence that are necessary to sustain a durable political process.
It has been the consistent view of the Irish Government that there should have been no interference in the scheduling of elections after the first term of the assembly expired.
We reiterate tonight our call for an election date to be fixed and we call on all parties to discharge their responsibilities under the Agreement so that those elections are held in the most positive atmosphere possible thus giving real confidence to all sections of the community. Everyone needs to demonstrate that we are all intent on enabling the executive to be re-constituted after the election on a sustainable, durable and inclusive basis without further impediment or distraction.
The course of Peace is under threat in many troubled parts of the world. There are many in our world who are oppressed, demeaned and diminished by living in a culture of violence and hatred.
There are many living in those terrible situations who are looking for a peaceful solution. I meet ordinary people in the course of my travels to those places who continue to believe that circumstances can and should be created where basic dignities will be afforded them and that their legitimate aspirations can be accommodated in the process of peace and reconciliation.
As Foreign Minister of Ireland I can vouch for many of them who look to our own Peace Process as perhaps providing an example, a ray of hope to those who find themselves in seemingly hopeless situations. That somehow there is;
One place they can point to where leadership and courage are displayed;
One instance where we can overcome the legacies of history;
One occasion when Governments and Political parties can creatively construct the means to confront the real issues of today and that is bringing real benefit to the ordinary people of today;
One generation who refuse to ignore the great capacities and opportunities available now to vindicate the self-sacrifice and noble ideals of a previous generation;
One nation that finally found a way to reconcile different political traditions and opposing political loyalties in ways which upheld their equal legitimacy and gave political expression to the equal validity of both.
One people who decided that four centuries on, it is time to find ways to entrust ourselves through a democratic process to a common future rather than continue with a political myth that we can reach our true potential by denying the existence of, or our need for, the other.
One truth that will provide a lesson and inspiration to impoverished and oppressed millions the world over.
An immutable truth that to resolve conflict we must commit to live and work together rather than kill and die apart.
Now there is a contribution that is worth making.
There is a context that justifies the necessity to move on.
There is a reason to take up the responsibilities that Public life thrusts upon us.
There is a course that can make Ireland a cherished place in the hearts and minds of people the world over. Let us shake off the shackles of doubt.