Martin Speaks of a 'Shared Island'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin delivering his "Shared Island" address from Dublin Castle. Photo by Julien Behal Photography.

By Irish Echo Staff

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has delivered his and his government's vision for relations on the island of Ireland in the coming years, this in a "Shared Island"- themed address from Dublin Castle, once the epicenter of British rule in Ireland.

Mr. Martin said in part: "This is an online gathering that represents the full diversity of society on this island, and the connections we enjoy North and South, as well as East-West across these islands.

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"And although we feel the loss of not being able to gather in person for now, there is also a message in the patchwork of screens that we create instead, in this online forum.

"These snapshots of our homes and work places remind us just how rooted we all are to home and place. And to our communities across this island.

"The deep human connection we all feel to home place and to community, is why we must always work to accommodate and understand each other on this island. Because as Seamus Mallon perfectly described it, this is our shared home place.

"The hall in which I stand this morning - St. Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle - resonates with the complex history of this island. A history which was too often marked by conflict and division through the centuries.

"This hall has also recorded moments in the modernisation of Irish society in recent decades, and of the journey of reconciliation we embarked upon on this island in 1998 when the people, North and South, overwhelmingly endorsed the Good Friday Agreement.

"And it is here in Dublin Castle that the new Shared Island unit of the Department of the Taoiseach will be based and where we look forward to welcoming you all to make your contribution to shaping a Shared Island.

"I want to set out today how the Government is pursuing our goal of building consensus around a shared future, founded on the Good Friday Agreement.

"Collectively, through the Agreement we have made huge strides over the last 21 years towards the goal of “reconciliation, tolerance and mutual trust”.

"There have been challenges in recent years, but the power-sharing Executive and Assembly, the North South Ministerial Council and East-West institutions, including the British Irish Council, are now fully operating again. The Agreement is the indispensable framework for our political relationships. It is the foundation stone upon which we build.

"The strong partnership of the Irish and British Governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement and as closest neighbours, continues and will endure.

"In my discussions with Prime Minister Johnson we have a shared determination to see our bilateral partnership grow, reflecting the depth of the connections and friendship between our peoples.

"Peace in Northern Ireland created and has consolidated the space and the need for mutual understanding and trust between all communities and traditions. The imperative to use that space and the potential it offers us all has grown since 1998.

"As a vital part of the Good Friday Agreement, we definitively resolved how we decide on the constitutional future for the island, founded on the principle of consent.

"As Taoiseach, I respect and I affirm everyone’s right on the island to make the case for the constitutional future they wish to see for Northern Ireland, whether they are nationalist, unionist or neither.

"The genius of the Agreement is that we do not need to be defined or dominated by constitutional questions, as we were in the past. We can all work together for a shared future without in any way relinquishing our equally legitimate ambitions and beliefs - nationalist, unionist or neither.

"As John Hume said in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with David Trimble, by working together through the institutions of the Agreement: 'the real healing process will begin and we will erode the distrust and prejudices of our past and our new society will evolve…The identities of both sections of our people will be respected and there will be no victory for either side.'

"None of us, in good conscience, can claim that this vision has been fully realised over the course of the almost twenty-two years since John made this speech.

"But the fact that we have not yet achieved what is possible does nothing to dim the transformational potential that the Good Friday Agreement still holds for us all on this island.

"I believe that now is the time to renew our commitment to building that truly shared future. To redouble our efforts to build connections and trust between traditions on our island. To do more together so that in each area of the Agreement, we are making tangible progress on reconciliation.

"This is the core of Government’s approach to a shared island.

"It involves working together, North and South, to meet the major strategic challenges we face together. It involves further developing our shared island economy; working to deepen our cooperation in areas such as health and education; and investing together for the benefit of the North West and border regions. It involves fostering constructive and inclusive dialogue and supporting a programme of research so that we have access to the best of ideas grounded in the strongest of evidence.

"The Shared island agenda is a priority for the entire Government and the Shared Island unit in my Department will be a driver for this work.

"It is a broad, positive and practical agenda. All sections of society, North and South - nationalist, unionist or neither - can engage with this fully and confidently.

"Because no outcome is pre-ordained under the Good Friday Agreement. Save that we should strive together on this island for a reconciled and shared future."