Friday 23 March 2018

DUP support is not essential in post-Brexit dialogue - Martin

Micheál Martin: hit out at media for predicting Fianna Fáil demise Picture: Tom Burke
Micheál Martin: hit out at media for predicting Fianna Fáil demise Picture: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said the DUP's backing is not essential for the establishment of a 'post-Brexit' national dialogue.

Mr Martin has said in light of the decision by Britain to leave the EU, the Oireachtas should convene a "national dialogue" or "civil dialogue" involving workers, business organisations, non-governmental organisations and community groupings.

He said the body would be different from the so-called 'all-island' forum, which was shot down by the North's First Minister Arlene Foster.

"That was a mistake, that was wrong," he said.

Significantly, Mr Martin said the body could go ahead without the support of the DUP and should go right around the island of Ireland. He made the claims to reporters as he arrived at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal.

Delivering the John Hume lecture, Mr Martin described the allocation of speaking rights in the Dáil as "absurd", arguing that it unduly favoured "ad hoc groupings of a few deputies".

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He said: "The situation at the moment is still unsettled," while insisting that the minority Government could still work.

Mr Martin was also critical of the slow pace at which legislation is being passed.

During the week, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said that no legislation had been passed in six months.

Mr Martin expressed concern that the largest parties in the Dáil did not have proportionate speaking time.

He explained: "As part of this, there is no doubt that the amount of time for government legislation needs to be increased if we are to properly review the more important measures that will start to appear on the order paper from October onwards.

"In addition, the principle that all deputies should have an opportunity to contribute to the work of the Dáil has not yet been achieved.

"In large part, this is because we have the absurd situation where the greater the mandate your party holds, the less opportunity you have to speak."

The Fianna Fáil leader also used his speech to address the concerns stemming from the attack in Nice and Brexit.

The French ambassador, Jean-Pierre Thébault, had pulled out of the event following the Nice massacre.

Mr Martin told the audience: "We are in what can best be termed a new age of uncertainty. There is no question where the people of our country stand - we stand in solidarity with France and we stand in solidarity with the great principles of liberty, equality and fraternity which July 14 celebrates.

"This is a tense time...There is a natural urge to find refuge in broad definitions of the enemy. We must take robust action - we cannot fail to adopt reasonable measures to fight new threats. But equally, we must never forget what we are defending."

On Brexit, Mr Martin said barriers on the Border could set the country back decades.

"The Brexit vote has added a new risk. It threatens to set back a model of shared development, which, in spite of many problems, has achieved a lot and could achieve much more. The introduction of new barriers between both parts of this island would potentially set us back decades," he said.

Mr Martin hit out at the media for predicting Fianna Fáil's demise. "This year's general election demonstrated a profound detachment between elite and public discourse in this country. The most dramatic proof of this was the shock of so many at the massive losses by the government parties and the fact that Fianna Fáil gained..."

Irish Independent

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