N Ireland now far better for residents, says Tánaiste
Gilmore asks northern communities to reflect on outcome of triumphalist displays
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has criticised last month’s IRA commemoration rally in Castlederg. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
In an address scheduled for the British Irish Association in Cambridge today, Mr Gilmore said: “Let me be clear. Northern Ireland is an immeasurably better place than it was even five years ago, notwithstanding the very real economic challenges we all face.”
Mr Gilmore also criticised last month’s IRA commemoration rally in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, saying it lacked respect and sensitivity.
“The events of recent months surrounding disputes over flags and parades and the tensions and disorder they have provoked, alongside the unresolved issues of how to deal with the past, are exerting a harmful and even regressive effect on politics and community relations.
“Both communities and the organisations which claim to represent them have the right to celebrate their history and traditions, but if these events commemorate acts of conflict or involve displays of triumphalism or antagonism against their neighbour, then people need to reflect more deeply about the value of such commemorations and how they are marked.”
Mr Gilmore said he hoped to host representatives of the British royal family and the British government, along with the leaders of unionism, at commemorations for the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016.
He said he wanted all sides to respectfully remember those who gave their lives in the battle of the Somme, as well as Irish men who died fighting in a British uniform.
Mr Gilmore, who plans to lay a wreath at Belfast’s Cenotaph on Remembrance Day on November 11th for the second year running, said all have a responsibility to prepare and carry out commemorations in a way that gives no offence and is mindful of the sensitivities of all citizens.
Mr Gilmore also raised concerns that voices advocating Britain’s detachment from Europe were gaining in strength and volume.
British prime minister David Cameron has pledged to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership and hold an “in-out” referendum if re-elected in 2015.
“A UK detachment from Europe would be bad for Europe, which is better for Britain’s voice,” Mr Gilmore said. “I believe it would be bad for Britain, diminishing, rather than enhancing, its voice in international affairs.
“It would be bad for Northern Ireland, which has benefitted immeasurably from the EU - economically, financially, socially and indeed politically.
“It would be bad for the Republic if its most important economic partner were to distance itself from the European Union. And it would be bad for North-South co-operation.
“But most pertinent for our purposes this weekend, I believe it would be bad for British-Irish relations.”
Mr Gilmore travelled to England after attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers for talks on Syria, Egypt and the Middle East with US secretary of state John Kerry.
Additional reporting: PA