Having recently been in both Newry and Dundalk, I was surprised to hear that the idea the two towns could become a beacon city of the future, wowing us like we have never been wowed before, had been revived, an Irish equivalent of Buda and Pest if you will. But it seems there are no limits to northsouthery these days if An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s speech at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis is anything to go by. A brave new world for us all or a fool’s paradise? And I wonder what the DUP makes of the speech.
From Ahern’s speech:
“Bringing peace to Northern Ireland has been both our greatest challenge and our greatest achievement. There has been no other issue, which has taken up so much of my time, because no other issue is as central to our cause.
We are working hard to build peace. We are working hard to build trust.
We have won the argument for a New Ireland. A New Ireland based on the principles of freedom, of equality and of democracy. These are our principles – the principles of constitutional republicanism.
We believe in a united Ireland. We cherish that aspiration.
We have always stood against those who sought to use violence to achieve it.
That day is done.
It sowed division and set back the cause of Irish unity.
This year we paid tribute to the heroes of 1916 and saw on the streets of our capital city how much respect the Irish people have for the founders of our State.
And, we also paid tribute to the dead of the Battle of the Somme.
We respect those who share our island but do not share our aspirations. We recognise their democratic rights and we acknowledge both their history and their tradition.
I believe the agreement at St Andrews will finally and fully unlock the massive potential for permanent peace and progress.
That agreement creates space for everybody.
It underpins the Good Friday Agreement and addresses the reasonable concerns of all in relation to the outstanding issues.
Athbheonn sé ár bhfuinneamh dár misean stairiúil.
Mar chuid den chomhaontú sin, tá sé gafa ar láimh ag Rialtas na Breataine Acht um an Teanga Gaeilge a thabhairt isteach don chéad uair. Bainfidh an reachtaíocht nua seo tairbhe as taithí an Deiscirt, áit inár chuir Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla de chuid an Rialtais seo an Ghaeilge in áit lárnach sa saol atá romhainn. Cuireann sé a thuilleadh leis na bearta ata déanta againn chun áit dhlisteanach a ghnóthú don Ghaeilge mar theanga oibre oifigiúil aitheanta de chuid an Aontais Eorpaigh.
With peace we can build prosperity for everyone.
But, to succeed, we must think in different and creative ways.
We are already introducing an all-island free travel scheme, as we said we would.
We are developing all-island approaches to healthcare, so that people can get the best treatment wherever they live on this island.
We are working on key cross-border infrastructure projects, improving the road, rail and electricity networks.
We have already opened new road links to Belfast and the North East.
We will now turn our attention – with the same energy and determination – to improving access to Donegal, to Derry and to the North West. We will also start to plan a new North / South project to restore and reopen the Ulster Canal to create a major inland waterway for the border region.
Fifteen years ago, that region was one of the most heavily fortified in Europe with more than one hundred crossings closed. Tonight, I can announce that the final few border roads closed during the Troubles will be reopened. Working together in agreement, North and South, we can be a world-beater.
I look forward to the day, very soon, when the Northern Ireland Executive and North/South Ministerial Council are restored and that partnership can blossom.
The dream of peace can and will become a reality, not just for our time but for all time.”