May 21, 2013

Fianna Fáil Launch in Belfast

Missed this one. Fianna Fáil met April 2 2013 in Belfast to launch a new unit in Northern Ireland's capital city. Read their press release here.

Here's what they said on the situation in Northern Ireland or 'the north' as they call it. Peter Armstrong, the acting Chairperson of Belfast Fianna Fáil said:

“There is a growing frustration across the north that the current political establishment in Belfast, the DUP and Sinn Féin, are more interested in playing to their political bases than they are in addressing the big challenges facing our community . Fianna Fáil can bring fresh policies and new thinking to the north of Ireland, we can develop new policies that will work right across the island, we can bring our communities closer together and we can further the causes of peace, integration, prosperity and unity, in line with our republican values. We welcome new members of all ages from all communities throughout the greater Belfast area.
Fianna Fáil had a very successful Ard Fheis last weekend at the RDS Dublin attended by more than 4,000 delegates and the largest ever northern contingent. Key motions were passed that will see Fianna Fáil create a northern roadmap with a view to developing the party structure across Northern Ireland. We will work with Party Headquarters in Dublin to move this forward and bring the Fianna Fáil message to more and more communities.”
I had noticed that the 'Soldiers of Destiny' had, led by party leader Michael Martin, been quite active in Northern Ireland.

Including a speech by Micheál Martin 27 February 2013 to Queens University Politics Society and Ógra Fianna Fáil. You can read the Slugger O'Toole analysis here. Interesting excerpts include:
"Fifteen years on the progress is undeniable. Lifting from society a constant fear of violence is a dramatic achievement which remains in place in spite of the efforts of a handful of extremists. The difference on the streets of Northern Ireland is undeniable and sustained. The long-term social and economic benefits of peace are unchallengeable – and those benefits are to be found across the whole island."
He also said on Sinn Fein:
"Sinn Fein cannot be fully committed to all-island, all-community politics if it continues to insist on its own version of history and what it means to be Irish. How can a party be truly all-island and committed to convincing unionists if it sells t-shirts and mugs emblazoned with “IRA undefeated army”?"
I really have to agree with one last point of his:
"Their (Sinn Fein) basic positioning is as the all-purpose, anti-everything protest party. Ours is to be a centre-ground alternative, offering responsible opposition. We never have and never will cede to them the right to define Irish republicanism."
Further contributions from  Fianna Fáil into the Northern Ireland debate can be seen here which is further Slugger analysis from February 28 2013.

In a speech at Arbour Hill church (where 1916 Easter Rising leaders were buried) on April 21 2013 Michael Martin said of affairs in Northern Ireland:
"The failure to mark the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in any meaningful way stands in contrast to the wider civil society which has used it as a moment to reflect on what has been achieved and what is not working."
A little more:
"Northern Ireland’s political establishment, in the form of Sinn Fein and the DUP are too deeply invested in their own party self-interest to be left to get on with things by themselves. Sinn Fein in particular seem content to allow the Northern Executive cruise along on autopilot while they focus all their energy on trying to pull together some sort of coherent plan in Dublin. Of course, for a party like the DUP, whose raison d’être is maintenance of the status quo, this suits just fine."
Though in his leaders speech at the annual Ard Fheis there was no mention of Northern Ireland. As Mick Fealty said:
"In the leaders speech, there was no mention of Northern Ireland. Martin is not dodging questions when he asserts that there are no votes in the issue amongst southern voters."
In May Michael Martin raises the issue of Northern Ireland in the Dail. Read Slugger analysis here and see Dail excerpt below:
Micheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail): "Did the Taoiseach speak to Prime Minister Cameron about extending the remit of the Parades Commission? Parading remains a major risk to civic stability in the North. There is considerable nervousness in the North about the upcoming parading season, particularly because of the flag violence we witnessed last Christmas. These events were particularly harmful for communities like the Short Strand enclave in east Belfast, which has effectively endured a continuous parading season."
To my mind what this illustrates is the committed and sustained effort of Fianna Fáil to be involved in a minor fashion in the governance of Northern Ireland. At the very least to stay up to speed and make the odd rhetorical intervention.

Let's see how things advance.


Michael Martin in Tigers Bay, Belfast (May, 2010):

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