Thursday 22 February 2018

Gilmore urges North parties to rise above ‘one-dimensional politics’

Michael McHugh

THE hope which followed the Good Friday Agreement should not be lost through one-dimensional politics, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said.

Mr Gilmore urged politicians to make progress in north/south relations and the Richard Haass talks on parades, flags and dealing with the legacy of the past.

He called for renewed friendship and trust as well as broader mobilisation by members of the community to create a more reconciled and prosperous future.

"Making progress, whether in the context of north-south relations or in the context of the Panel of Parties talks, relies on the maintenance, building and renewing of trust and friendship in the totality of relationships across these islands," he told delegates at the SDLP party conference in Armagh.

"One-dimensional politics does not fit with the concept of the Good Friday Agreement, which requires all of us, the SDLP, the government and others to all work together.

"We cannot risk letting the germ of hope, opportunity and ambition which has taken hold in so many communities be left to go to seed."

Mr Gilmore's address focused on boosting the economy - including tackling high levels of youth unemployment and better cross-border cooperation - as well as the need for reconciliation.

He said people needed to realise the potential of the 1998 Agreement and all its parts, including a bill of rights, a civic forum, greater participation of women in political life, integrated education and shared housing.

"We cannot be selectively blind to those parts we find difficult. When we pick and choose, the balance and integrity of the whole is picked apart," he said.

"We need to recall and renew the hope, ambition and political leadership which made the Agreement possible in order to deal with the challenges which we are currently facing, including in the context of the ongoing Haass process."

The Labour Party leader acknowledged that these are substantial and ambitious undertakings which can only be achieved through close and honest cooperation between the British and Irish Governments and parties in Northern Ireland.

"It also requires a broader mobilisation of opinion across business, community, faith and other sectors to demand real and consistent investment by all in a more reconciled and prosperous future," he added.

He commended the SDLP's approach to the Haass talks.

"This is a time for hope and the ambition to see further progress made towards advancing reconciliation and the creation of a truly reconciled society."

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