Taoiseach ‘didn’t think twice’ about travelling to Derry after Belfast security alert

Martin not drawn on whether security measures have stepped up since incident

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he “didn’t think twice” about attending an event in Derry a week on from a bomb hoax aimed at Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in Belfast.

However, Mr Martin declined to be drawn on whether security measures have been stepped up since a security alert meant Mr Coveney had to stop delivery a speech at a peace building event in north Belfast.

Speaking to media following a planned visit to Ulster University Magee Campus in Derry, Mr Martin said security issues were a “matter for members of the PSNI and An Garda Síochána”.

He condemned last Friday’s attack on the Houben Centre on the Crumlin Road in Belfast.

Mr Martin praised the electrician who had his van hijacked and was forced to drive what he believed was a live bomb and leave it outside the event, organised by the John & Pat Hume Foundation.

“I was heartened by the cross-community unity in the condemnation of that incident,” he said.

“We should never be afraid of discourse, of dialogue, and in many ways the John & Pat Hume Foundation is remembering a man and woman, who above and beyond anything else, championed the virtue of dialogue and the need to keep talking.”

Asked about his personal security risk in coming to Derry in the aftermath of the Belfast incident, Mr Martin replied he “didn’t think twice” about attending.

Addressing concerns about a threatened escalation in violence by loyalists opposed to the Northern Ireland protocol, he said he has “engaged with all perspectives in Northern Ireland, irrespective of people’s position”, including a meeting with the Orange Order six weeks ago.

Many unionists and loyalists argue the protocol, which has effectively created a post-Brexit border in the Irish Sea, is damaging the North’s economy and has undermined its constitutional position as part of the UK.

“I will continue to meet everyone in a spirit of co-operation, and endeavouring to have greater harmony and progress,” Mr Martin said.

“Democracy must always triumph, we will always take advice from the PSNI and An Garda Síochána, and societies must have the freedom to engage, to discuss, and to reflect and that is critically.

“We know at a much larger scale what can happen.

“We have a war in Ukraine that has stemmed from authoritarianism versus democracy, stems from a fear of democracy and a fear of dialogues, that is what Russia is at.”

Cost of living

Turning to a future financial package to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, Mr Martin said the Government had already allocated €2 billion since October’s budget to alleviate pressures and it will “be working with all of the stakeholders in terms of navigating a way forward”.

Different sectors, including hauliers, farming and agriculture, had already been examined.

“Therefore that’s how we intend to approach this but what we are witnessing now is the impact of this war on Ukraine which has exasperated very significantly the ongoing issues we were having already,” he said.

“What I said yesterday is that we cannot deal with this on a week-to-week basis, we have to look at this over the medium term, in terms of the Government’s approach to this.

“It is a huge imposition on households and on business, and input costs are rising and it is having an effect on the economy, in terms of rising inflation and then in terms of how we see the situation from now until the end of the year.”