A ‘small minority can terrorise communities’, says Martin

Tánaiste warns absence of Executive and defence of status quo ‘not a safe strategy’

Micheál Martin: “It is nothing less than sectarian thuggery.”

Micheál Martin: “It is nothing less than sectarian thuggery.”

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Events in recent days in the North have shown how a small minority can terrorise communities, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.

“Building dangerous bonfires in built-up areas, attacking workers, burning flags and political posters as well as abusive sloganeering have nothing to do with celebration of a culture,” he said.

“It is nothing less than sectarian thuggery. The apparent activity of the east Belfast UVF is a major concern, as is the activity of dissidents in Derry. The attempted murder of a police officer in Derry, the throwing of 20 petrol bombs and the attacks on the small protestant community in the Fountain area of the city show a deliberate escalation of sectarian violence.”

He welcomed the joint statement signed by six Assembly parties condemning the violence of recent days and the call for full co-operation with the police. “It showed that there is cross-community opposition to the tiny minority trying to destabilise Northern Ireland and undermine progress.”

Executive

But he said during a Dáil debate on the North and Brexit that the North is 549 days without an Executive.

A community without a voice “at a time of great uncertainty and historic challenges is dangerous in any circumstance”, he said, but “potentially destructive” in a community with the North’s history.

He was also disappointed that neither the Taoiseach nor the British prime minister would attend the British Irish Intergovernmental conference to be held later this month,“given the scale and importance of the issues at hand”.

Opening the debate Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the North needs the kind of leadership in its Executive that community leaders are showing on the ground to keep people safe.

Mr Coveney said people were right to be concerned “at the political stagnation that has taken place in Stormont resulting in the lack of a functioning Executive”.

“Those who think that the absence of Government and the maintenance of the status quo in Northern Ireland is a safe strategy” are mistaken.

But he said “the determination that we see in Derry to uphold our shared peace serves as an inspiration to all of us in government and in politics to continue to do all that we can to see that the Good Friday Agreement can operate to its full potential through its political institutions.”

He called on politicians “to think about the language they use in order to create an atmosphere that manages the tensions we are currently seeing through the summer months”.

He said they should “create a context in early September where we can get back to a proper political negotiation that can result in an Executive being formed again”.

Ireland for all

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said her party “stands for a new united inclusive and equal Ireland, an Ireland for all, whether British, Irish, both or neither.

“Those who want to drag us back into conflict, those who want to maintain community division,” would not prevail, she said.

Ms McDonald welcomed the intergovernmental conference but said “it must be more than a talking shop”.

Social Democrats TD Roisin Shortall highlighted Brexit concerns but said the British white paper showed that “crucially for Ireland, it points towards a realisation that a soft Brexit’ is not only desirable for the UK, but in many ways inevitable”.

But she said it was not clear how the UK could limit EU migration to skilled workers and “simultaneously keep an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. It is not clear how this circle can be squared.”

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