“The harsh reality is that in the past two decades we have done too little to take up the historic opportunity of the Agreement to build understanding and cooperation on this island”

Today’s Irish News reports on a speech by Taoiseach Micheál Martin at a commemoration event for former Taoiseach Seán Lemass yesterday in Dublin. From the article:

PEOPLE making the loudest calls for Irish unity are “the most divisive” in how they treat opponents, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

People who do not conform to a specific approach on how to achieve unity have been dismissed and abused.

“It is remarkable how often it is that those who are loudest in calling for national unity who are the most divisive in how they treat people who don’t agree with their particular priorities,” he said.

“They have a remarkable range of slurs ready to throw at those who won’t just be quiet and do what they demand.”

The Fianna Fáil leader said not enough work has been done to build co-operation and understanding between Northern Ireland and the Republic since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

He said day-to-day coverage of north is largely missing from news and current affairs output from Dublin, meaning that only the “loudest voices” tend to be covered.

Mr Martin said more work needed to be done to find out “exactly what are the similarities and differences between us” on both sides of the border.

He added: “The harsh reality is that in the past two decades we have done too little to take up the historic opportunity of the Agreement to build understanding and cooperation on this island,” he said.

“We have too often allowed the rhetoric of the (sectarian) headcount to replace the true republican spirit of engagement. The decision by Sinn Féin and the DUP to sideline and disband the Civic Forum has undermined non-partisan voices.”

Mr Martin said his vision of a united Ireland is informed by “that of 1798 and 1916 – one which is defined by diversity not by conformity”.

“And the first priority of anybody who values the welfare of this island has to be to restore the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and show that cooperation is still possible,” he said.

“We have to end the destructive cycle of parties collapsing democratic institutions whenever it suits them.”

Obviously, this is a dig at Sinn Féin but is there more to the remarks or is it just an attempt to boost Fianna Fáil Republican credentials?

Is it a sign that the reunification debate is now going mainstream?

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