Martin criticises lack of leadership in peace process but praises Cowen for inviting Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland

Posted By: August 15, 2013

Irish Examiner. Thursday, August 15, 2013
By Mary Regan, Political Correspondent
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has offered a rare word of praise for his predecessor, Brian Cowen — for inviting Britain’s Queen Elizabeth to Ireland.
He said there is currently a lack of leadership in maintaining the progress of the peace process — something he has touched on frequently in recent months. 

Mr Martin was speaking at the opening of the Merriman Summer School taking place in Co Clare. 

“When former taoiseach Brian Cowen formally invited the British monarch to undertake a state visit we all knew it would be historic, but the scale of the symbolism involved was more powerful than anyone could have expected,” he said. 

Recalling the royal visit of May 2011, he said: “Accompanied by a president of a free Irish Republic who spent much of her life living under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth bowed her head in respectful commemoration of those who fought for Irish freedom.” 

Mr Martin said there is now a lack of leadership and “greater generosity and restraint” is required for things to change in the North. 

Change requires “leaders to be willing to move the agenda on and to be consistent in respecting institutions which are trying to serve the whole community”, he said. 

“There was nothing inevitable about the success of the peace process and there is nothing inevitable about its longer-term course.” 

Rising sectarian tensions are a cause of concern, he said, but they are only part of the challenge to the entire process of reconciliation and development. 

“Institutions are in place. Meetings happen on schedule. Speeches about how well everyone is getting on are delivered all the time. Yet there is absolutely no urgency or ambition. 

“The focus has been on managing rather than developing institutions. Opportunities to address shared problems are being missed — and in some areas we are seeing slow but undeniable retreat from the policy of deeper co-operation.” 

The Fianna Fail leader also told the summer school that there’s “great cause for concern” over the relationship between the British and Irish governments in relation to their handling North. 

He gave the example of the new economic pact for Northern Ireland which was announced by the British prime minister, David Cameron, in London but, which he said, “excludes any North/South dimension whatsoever”. 

He said: “Even though the Irish Government had explicitly addressed common development as a goal in the 2007 National Development Plan — and maintained most of the proposals even in the toughest of times — the ‘pact’ does not include even a single mention of the Border Region or cross-border co-operation.”