Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, TD, highlighted the need for compromise and trust across party divides in Northern Ireland when he addressed the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross this afternoon. He also pledged the Government’s steadfast commitment to the principles of the Peace Process as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.
Addressing the Kennedy Summer School, Minister Flanagan said: “It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of Dr Ian Paisley today.
“He was a man of strong principles and a deep religious conviction who was the voice of many people from his tradition. He was admired by many for his resolute spirit and his strength of purpose. These qualities were very much to the fore when he did what was once unimaginable and, together with Martin McGuinness, brought nationalist and unionist parties together in partnership government in the Northern Ireland Executive.
“I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Baronness Paisley, their children and wider family on their loss. I also extend my sympathies to his friends and former colleagues in the Democratic Unionist Party.
Responding to an address by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, the North’s first Police Ombudsman, the Minister said:
“The First Minister has articulated his frustration with working in a system which he perceives to not be delivering sufficiently on important and contentious issues. His frustrations are shared by parties across the political spectrum, by community representatives, by academics. They see a politics which has atrophied, affecting reconciliation, lives and potentially even the very process itself, a politics where the necessary trust to work a coalition has not been sufficiently constructed.
“Difficulties in making politics work sit uncomfortably with the great courage shown by so many over the past twenty years in taking the steps necessary to achieve peace in Northern Ireland. Is there the courage to really build trust across party divides?
“Building this trust is the responsibility of all in political life, who must demonstrate that compromise is not a dirty word but the very essence of successful politics. This may require a different dialogue with their bases, to articulate that successful politics is about understanding the needs of partners and finding mutually acceptable arrangements to accommodate different positions.
“The history of the peace process demonstrates that politicians and civil society in Northern Ireland have the genius necessary to resolve deep differences, through respectful and constructive dialogue. I don’t underestimate the challenge and difficulties which this encompasses. But the significant leaps taken over the years since the Good Friday Agreement show that the people understand and expect the necessary and enabling process of compromise, mutual understanding and respect – this should give the confidence to lead from the front, rather than behind.
“Rather than shy away from the difficult conversations which can arise when differences emerge, it is time to talk openly, frankly and honestly around the causes of political and societal difficulty, in particular the past, so that we can move more decisively towards that reconciled, prosperous and forward-looking Northern Ireland that is our goal.
“Over the coming weeks and months I will be talking to the political parties in the North, and with the British Government, to encourage the re-affirmation of our commitment to the fundamental principles of the peace process: power-sharing and partnership government; equality; ending division; human rights; parity of esteem; support for the rule of law and the devolved institutions. These conversations will take place in the context of the continuing role of the two Governments as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement. In recent weeks and days I have had useful discussions with the Party leaders in Northern Ireland. I appreciate their candour and constructive approach. I look forward to continuing and deepening those discussions in the months ahead.”