Northern Ireland news

Brexit concerns in north must be dealt with through partnership shown in Good Friday Agreement, Taoiseach Michéal Martin insists

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressed the latest Shared Island Dialogue event in Derry on Tuesday. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Paul Ainsworth

THE impact of Brexit on people in the north must be dealt with "sincerely by all with responsibilities" the Taoiseach has said during his speech to the latest Shared Island Dialogue event in Derry.

The event was held at St Columb’s Hall yesterday and is the latest in a series of civic discussion gatherings focussing on Ireland's future, which first began in 2020.

The theme of yesterday's event was 'identities on a shared island' and addressing attendees via video link, Micheál Martin said it was vital for the "coming generation" to learn how "we can better accommodate our identities, on this diverse and diversifying island that we share".

However, he warned that both unionists and nationalists in the north have "genuine concerns about the outworkings of Brexit, and its impacts in practical terms".

Mr Martin said: "These need to be worked on sincerely by all with responsibilities, on the basis of real partnership under the Good Friday Agreement and the interests of all of the people of Northern Ireland. That will remain the Irish government’s approach."

Speaking of identities, the taoiseach said: "For too long in the history of this island, we misunderstood each other across our different identities and political traditions.

 

"We perpetuated myths about other sections of the community, north and south. About the legitimacy of others’ identity, culture, beliefs, needs and aspirations. There were some who sought to obscure our very shared humanity.

 

"And this saw dark and violent moments in our recent past, which have left a legacy of pain and trauma to this day, that still has to be properly addressed."

Referring to the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Martin said the Irish people north and south "definitively dispelled the old myths" by "resoundingly endorsing" it in the 1998 referendum.

"Through the Agreement, the people affirmed principles of partnership, equality and mutual respect as the basis of our relationships," he said.

 

"The right of the people of Northern Ireland to identify and be accepted as Irish, or British or both, and comprehensive civic and political rights, including to equal opportunity regardless of class, creed, ability, gender or ethnicity."

He added: "These are not just warm words. They are the foundation for an inclusive, respectful, honest and thriving society."

 

Warning that there was "a way to go" before all identities on the island were fully accommodated, he said: "We do, I believe, need to reflect in the south on how we could engage more positively and proactively with unionist and loyalist cultural traditions.

 

"And indeed, with the diversity of British identity more broadly, after a century of independence. And in Northern Ireland, respect and tolerance for linguistic and cultural diversity requires continued political leadership and attention, and the support of the two governments as co-guarantors of the agreement."

 

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