NI peace process devoid of ambition, says Martin

Fianna Fáil leader says majority in North feel Stormont Assembly has achieved little

Opening the Merriman Summer School in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare the Fianna Fáil leader said problems in Northern Ireland were being merely “managed” rather than “developed”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Opening the Merriman Summer School in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare the Fianna Fáil leader said problems in Northern Ireland were being merely “managed” rather than “developed”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Thu, Aug 15, 2013, 06:41

The Northern Ireland peace process is devoid of urgency and ambition and run by people who pander to their own constituencies and partisan concerns, Micheál Martin has said.

Opening the Merriman Summer School in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, last night, the Fianna Fáil leader said problems in Northern Ireland were being merely “managed” rather than “developed”.

“In some areas we are seeing a slow but undeniable retreat from a policy of deeper co-operation,” he said.

A majority in Northern Ireland felt the Stormont Assembly had achieved little, he said. In the Republic, people paid attention to Northern Ireland only when problems arose.

“There are only a handful of journalists who pay any attention to the wider cultural, social and economic dimensions of relations within Northern Ireland and between North and South,” he said.

“It is as if issues relating to the North have been put away in a file marked ‘history’ only to be dusted off when communal tensions flare up again.”

His address focused on the need for the opportunities provided by the Belfast Agreement to be pursued fully.

“The failure to take all of these opportunities, to build deep understanding of other communities, to aggressively target development, to work to being the concerns of marginalised groups and areas on to a shared agenda – each of these poses a long-term threat to what has been achieved,” he said.

The British-Irish element of the agreement was the most developed, he said, but North- South opportunities were being overlooked.Calling for a “reinvigorated north-south dimension”, he said work was needed to promote development which would show practical results for communities.

His singled out the failure to secure funding for the Narrow Water bridge spanning counties Louth and Down, and called for a range of all-Ireland economic initiatives including a Border Economic Zone.