Taoiseach tells Dáil of symbolic and practical significance of UK visit

SF leader says visit possible because of peace process and Good Friday Agreement

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he does not underestimate the symbolic and practical significance of President Michael D Higgins’s State visit to Britain.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he does not underestimate the symbolic and practical significance of President Michael D Higgins’s State visit to Britain.

Tue, Apr 8, 2014, 16:56

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he does not underestimate the symbolic and practical significance of President Michael D Higgins’s State visit to Britain.

“I believe President Higgins will fulfil his duties admirably and will set out in his own unique fashion the range of connection, historically, academically, educationally, socially and culturally, between our people in the two islands,’’ he added.

Mr Kenny was replying to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, during Opposition leaders’ questions in the Dáil this afternoon, before flying to London to attend tonight’s banquet in Windsor Castle.

The Taoiseach said he was reminded of what former US president Bill Clinton had said about the peace process when visiting Derry. He had said “you have to finish the job’’. Mr Kenny said the five parties involved in the Haas talks had to get to grips with a situation where young people in the North found that the political process was a blockage to the future.

Mr Adams said the President’s visit was important and historic, adding that it had taken 93 years to agree.

“We all acknowledge it was made possible because of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement,’’ he added. “We also know that it is part of a journey and that much more needs to be done on the ground in the North and between both parts of the island, particularly on the issue of rights.’’

Mr Adams said there were great possibilities and great potential and required a focus and commitment by everyone involved. “All identities across this island, whether Irish or British or any other, need to be given respect on the basis of equality,’’ he added.

He said the participation of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was another sign of the positive commitment by Irish republicans to engage with unionist neighbours.