Wednesday 26 October 2016

Welcome words come rather late in the day

Published 31/08/2015 | 02:30

Charlie Flanagan
Charlie Flanagan

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has laid it on the line for Sinn Féin with some characteristic plain speaking. He said blanket denials by Sinn Féin of the IRA's existence are most unhelpful and nobody believes them.

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It is an effective challenge to Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and the others to make a move towards re-building trust with unionists. The minister's comments are welcome - but they are at least one week too late.

Time will tell whether Mr Flanagan's tardiness in awakening to the IRA threat and its potential knock-on effects has caused more lasting damage. In the past week, a tardy response by Dublin and London allowed competition between the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and internal tensions within the latter, to pose a very serious threat to the North's already fragile peace process.

The result has been the UUP's withdrawal from the North's power-sharing executive and the very real threat that DUP actions will sooner rather than later collapse the executive. These political failures, in turn, pose the dreaded prospect of the men of violence once more moving to fill the vacuum.

It is all a very depressing and distressing prospect. We are left to hope that Mr Flanagan's exhortation to everyone involved to return to first principles will bear fruit.

It is time all of the parties realised the many benefits of the Good Friday Agreement are worth working to preserve.

Irish Independent

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