Comment: Republic has issues to examine

Nigel Dodds
Nigel Dodds

Last weekend the Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore suggested that his government would intervene in the talks between the five Executive parties to seek agreement on issues including flags and parades.

Such issues are matters solely related to the internal affairs of Northern Ireland and as such they are of absolutely no relevance to the Republic of Ireland.

These are issues which can only be solved between the parties in Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately there were some who seemed to believe that in the talks which ended on New Year’s Eve, their job was to find agreement with Dr Haass.

It wasn’t. The task was to find agreement with the other parties. There can be no suggestion of any kind of imposed solution to the problems under discussion within the Haass talks.

That was the message I put to the Prime Minister this week in Parliament and thankfully there was an acceptance from our government that the issues must be solved by the Northern Ireland parties without imposition from outside.

It is patently obvious that more work needs to be done. Three of the five parties were unable to offer their full support to the proposals offered by Dr Haass.

The history of Northern Ireland should be clear to anyone by now that progress is impossible if both unionism and nationalism are not both signed up.

Currently neither unionist party is able to give that support. Therefore the work must continue.

Unhelpful interventions from the Republic’s Foreign Minister are unlikely to move that process any further forward.

If Mr Gilmore and his government were keen to offer some assistance however then one area to focus on may be in dealing with the past.

Only this week the DUP sponsored a debate in the Assembly on the report from the Smithwick Tribunal.

The collusion that was exposed by this report between members of An Garda Siochana and the Provisional IRA does not represent the full extent of collusion, both directly and the disgraceful failure to provide adequate security along the border.

We know also of the disgracefully low rate of extradition for terrorist suspects from the Republic of Ireland into the United Kingdom during the Troubles.

Whilst the responsibility for terrorist crimes ultimately lies solely with the terrorists who carried them out, a greater willingness by the Irish government to focus on the issues from within their own borders would be of a great deal more assistance than any desire to interfere with the internal affairs of Northern Ireland.