Tuesday 20 August 2019

Assembly closure is a betrayal of Good Friday - Martin

Micheál Martin: Hit out at Sinn Féin and the DUP. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Micheál Martin: Hit out at Sinn Féin and the DUP. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Northern Ireland's lack of a working Assembly is a "scandal", Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.

The former foreign affairs minister has hit out at Sinn Féin and the DUP for avoiding hard work to get the situation resolved over recent years.

And he also claimed the Irish Government has "taken the eye off the ball" when it comes to the situation in the North.

"It is my view the parties in the North, particularly Sinn Féin and the DUP, have not utilised the Good Friday Agreement to the full," he said.

He added it is a "shocking indictment" of the parties that they cannot come together at a time when Brexit threatens the economy and society of the region.

"Sinn Féin pulled it [the Assembly] down in the first place, deliberately in my view, contrived it at the time over the heating scandal which has now gone into the background," said Mr Martin.

"The DUP should have facilitated its restoration. Brexit demands and creates the imperative for the restoration of the executive and assembly without preconditions."

Northern Ireland is now in the middle of its longest continuous period without a sitting parliament.

The Assembly collapsed in January 2017 but elected members have collected more than €10m in salaries since then.

Asked whether a long-term plan needed to be put in place for the North, Mr Martin said such a move would not cover over the current impasse.

"I don't like the casual way the Good Friday Agreement and its institutions have been cast aside," he said.

"I have a big issue with that.

"It was hard fought for, hard negotiated, sacrifices were made on all fronts, concessions were made on all fronts."

The Fianna Fáil leader called on the Irish Government to increase its focus on the North and on its relationship with unionism.

"People took their eye off the ball," he said.

Irish Independent

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