Minister of State Liz O’Donnell speaks at Glencree Summer School
Speaking at Glencree Summer School, in Co Wicklow, today, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms Liz O’Donnell, TD, said that resolving current difficulties in regard to the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement would require movement from each side "in a way that is convincing to the other". Echoing the Taoiseach at Ashford Castle during the week, she said that "if everybody remains rooted in stated positions, we can never have progress".
The Minister went on: "What is needed is not victory or defeat for one side or the other, but a recognition that we are all partners together in the Agreement, and that making it work, in all its aspects, is in the interests of all of us. That was the principle upon which the negotiation of the Agreement was based. It must also be the basis upon which we resolve the individual obstacles that now arise in its implementation".
Commenting on the new security measures announced by the two Governments following Omagh, the Minister said that these were not taken lightly, but that "both Governments have a clear responsibility, firstly, to defend the people of both parts of the island from attack by groups who have no legitimacy whatsoever and, secondly, to protect the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement". She said that the measures were aimed at addressing a specific security situation in a targetted and focussed way and that they would be kept under review. "We have a political strategy and a security strategy", the Minister said.
The theme of the Minister’s address was "Working with the Legacy of Sacred Traditions". She recalled the impact of such traditions on the conduct of the Multi-Party Talks, saying that "a major challenge throughout was to find the means by which both sides could move away from the cherished positions of absolutism and find that space where accommodation could be reached. It is a challenge which is ongoing, and which we must continue to face and address". .
The Minister said "it is difficult to comprehend and respect traditions which stem from events in the past of which we either have no appreciation, or on which we have a completely different historical perspective". Looking at the record of this State in that regard, she said "the elements of our heritage which were identified as British or even as Protestant were largely ignored in the years after independence. This was hardly surprising in a new State which had just emerged from a lengthy struggle for freedom". The Minister went on: "the truth is that for too long Ireland displayed little interest in or tolerance for the traditions and culture of the new Protestant minority". She argued that the process of change in this regard began in the late Sixties and that since that period, the South was demonstrating an increasing interest in all elements of its culture and in the complete picture of its own history. "This year's commemorations of 1798, for example, have gone a long way towards reclaiming the true history of that momentous period from the separate nationalist and unionist myths which had obscured it", the Minister said.
She highlighted the many other signs in the South of this new interest in and respect for the different traditions which make up the people of this island, pointing, for example, to the memorial at Islandbridge to the dead of the First World War, which she said "has been lovingly restored by the State in a major project started in the early 1980s". She added that "the Government is contributing to the erection in Flanders of a round tower to commemorate the Irish who died there", that "plans are underway to protect and develop the site of the Battle of the Boyne, and efforts are being made to preserve the birthplace of Sir Edward Carson, which had fallen into disrepair".
The Minister said that the Good Friday Agreement offered a "truly historic opportunity for creating a new human, political and cultural tradition of relationships within Northern Ireland, between North and South and between Britain and Ireland".
The Minister said that she hoped that we are, in both parts of Ireland, coming to a position where we can accept and respect the sacred traditions of others. However, events since Good Friday such as the murder of the Quinn boys and the Omagh atrocity demonstrated that we are still grappling with the more extreme and dissident expression of those cherished traditions through what she described as the "tyranny of violence". The referendums on the 22nd of May removed any basis whatsoever for any resort to violence to achieve political ends.
The Minister said that republicanism and democracy go hand in hand and that never again must we allow a gap to open up between them; they must once again become one and indivisible.
In concluding, the Minister said that if we were successful in meeting the challenges posed in taking forward the implementation of the Agreement, "the prize will be the transformation of traditions which have proved divisive into new structures and new traditions in which we can all share".Top