Statement by Minister Cowen in Seanad Eireann - Part 2
Clearly, it would be enormously assisted were other paramilitary organisations to follow the IRA in putting their weapons beyond use. There is simply no place for violence in a democracy. The people don't want it. The Governments won't stand for it. The world is a changed place. You are for peace, or you are against the people.
That is a message that must be heard loud and clear, particularly in the streets of North Belfast and Ardoyne. It is completely unacceptable for people to daily give vent to their grievances by hurling abuse and worse at the young school-children of Holy Cross School. It must stop.
The Agreement guaranteed the right of everyone to freely choose their place of residence and to live free from sectarian harassment. Campaigns of sectarian intimidation and violence must not be allowed to continue. Those responsible must be caught and brought to justice. Their activities have no place in a civilised world.
In a little over a week's time the Police Service of Northen Ireland will come into being and the new beginning in policing promised in the Agreement will be underway. New recruits will shortly enter. Early next year we will see their presence on the ground. The Police Board and District Policing Partnerships will, inevitably, take time to establish themselves, but their vitally important work in making the police service fully accountable to the community it serves will shortly have begun.
The Oversight Commissioner's review, which he will publish a year into the new arrangements, will be an important benchmark of how matters are proceeding and will point to where changes are necessary to ensure that Patten is being implemented in full.
We are embarking on an enormously important process of change. All parts of the community should be fully involved and enabled to play their full part. I strongly welcome the presence of Nationalists and Unionists on the Policing Board. But it is a great shame that Republicans are not there beside them, giving voice to the concerns and interests of the communities they represent. The have shown great leadership in other areas. I hope that, in time, they will come on board for the new beginning to policing.
The Agreement is about the replacing of conflict with political engagement. About overcoming the divisions of our past. It promised a new beginning in which partnership, equality and mutual respect were the basis on which relationships were built and sustained. It said we would strive together, in every practical way, towards reconciliation and rapprochement. For too many, that vision has yet to become a reality.
That this is the case, has been manifest in our political difficulties which have, in large part, stemmed from our failure to build bridges of trust and confidence between the two communities.
People still live apart in their own communities. There are our shops and their shops. Our streets and their streets. We have yet to build the common ground on which people can live, work, prosper and thrive together.
Overcoming this legacy of mutual distrust and misunderstanding will be a longer-term project. Our chances of success will be immeasurably improved if it takes place in an active and politically dynamic context. We need to see the people take full ownership of the task. To see civic society fully engaged, active and vocal in its support for the Agreement and its implementation. The business community, North and South, has a particularly crucial role to play. The potential is clearly there for a dynamic move forward in business cooperation and common action on the island. It now needs to be actively pursued.
We have had a good week. We have moved closer than ever before to our goal. But we must acknowledge the distance yet to be travelled, and the critical work that remains to be done, if we are truly to realise the Agreement's full potential.
Finally, we should not underestimate the scale of what we have achieved here in Ireland. Sitting on the Security Council one becomes sharply aware of the great number of countries in which conflict is a daily reality and in which hope is in very short supply. We do not pretend that we have discovered a universal solution. We know that each conflict has its unique origins, issues and solutions. But, at this difficult time for the global community, Ireland can send out a positive message.
We are not complacent. But we have shown that peace can happen, that politics can work, that mind-sets, as well as guns, can be decommissioned. Senator Hayes, writing perceptively in today's Irish Independent, probably spoke for all of us when he said "whatever way we look at it, this is one of the great days in the development of democratic institutions in Northern Ireland, in a resolution of an age-old conflict, and in the potential it presents for a better and safer life for all the people there".
We also know that no process of conflict resolution will be without its setbacks and its problems. But the enemies of peace cannot be allowed to succeed. With the right mixture of determination, patience and goodwill, even the most seemingly insurmountable obstacles and intractable problems can be overcome.
We have been privileged to have had the solidarity of the international community in our efforts. We deeply appreciate and value how our friends throughout the world - especially, of course, in the United States - have stood by us, sharing our bad days as well as our good.
Having ourselves received so much, we have a solemn duty to repay our debt in kind. Wherever there is conflict, there are people working for peace. Wherever and whenever we can lend a hand and help to make a difference, we will not be found wanting.