Northern Ireland - comments by the Minister for Foreign Affairs
Speech extract of Dermot Ahern TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs Chamber of Commerce Business Lunch, Dundalk, 23 March 2007
“Securing the Peace – Devolution”
“Some months ago, I brought Peter Hain to Dundalk Institute of Technology to see the work being done there on renewable energy. Shortly afterwards, we launched new work aimed at an all-island approach to renewable and sustainable energy.
I believe passionately in the importance of this work. All-island thinking is not merely desirable; it is essential to the future well-being of our environment, our economy and our society.
The case for close, all-island cooperation is as strong and as incontrovertible as the case for closer cooperation on climate change.
Peter Hain and I have made great progress in our work together. I don’t for a moment diminish what has been achieved. But I know in my heart that much more could be achieved through cooperation with a Northern Ireland Executive.
I want to continue those discussions with Northern Ireland Ministers. But I am also realistic. Cooperation grows from a relationship of trust and a sense of common purpose. Peter Hain and I developed that over time.
An incoming Executive will have to develop its own programme for government and its own policy directions.
Ian Paisley, for example, is a tough and formidable negotiator. But he is also a realist who made clear to us at Saint Andrews that more than anything, he wants to secure a better future for the next generation.
That’s what all this is about – saving the next generation from the fate which befell ours.
That’s why Nationalist Ireland demanded unequivocal action on decommissioning, paramilitarism and criminality.
That’s why Nationalist Ireland laid down our demands to the extremists – we demanded policing and non-violence and an end to armed campaigns.
And all but the dissident fringe of nationalism have now delivered. That much is clear.
For us, there’s no going back. The principle of consent is immutable.
The focus is on prosperity and co-operation now. The people have spoken on the constitutional issues.
We are the generation who ended the chaos, who stopped the war
We can hand prosperity on to the next generation. We can deliver them from a tyranny of the past. We can give them a future without conflict.
We’re almost there - Let’s finish the job. Let’s secure the peace. That’s what Monday is about.
It’s time now to move on and to deal with the other pressing issues that lagged behind during those years when so much political energy was invested in constitutional issues.
The partnership between the British and Irish Governments has been the backbone of this process from its outset. That partnership will continue and intensify if the political parties cannot form a Government next week.
But let us hope that realism will prevail and that better future we long spoken about can begin to take shape and put down deep roots.
Let us build now on the solid foundations for a new and enduring partnership between the Irish Government and the new Northern Ireland Executive. A partnership founded on respect for our differences but awareness of our sacred responsibility to those who will come after us.”
23 March 2007