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McGuinness address to North South Consultative Conference

26 May, 2010 - by Westminster

Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness today addressed the North South Consultative Conference in Farmleigh in Dublin.

The text of Mr. McGuinness speech can be found below.

“The development of a strategic all Ireland approach in partnership with civic society is central to our development. That is why we argued for an All Ireland Consultative Forum and why it forms part of the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements.

Last week An Taoiseach highlighted that the coming decade marks the centenary of a number of defining events in Irish History including the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising.

It is right to recognise the individual acts of heroism of those who stood for the vision of the Irish republic articulated on Easter Sunday 1916.

A pledge that guaranteed;

‘ religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally’

It is equally right to recognise the sacrifice of those who fought in the First World War. While some may question the value of such actions no one can set aside the scale of the loss or doubt the personal tragedy. Many gave up there lives in this war for a myriad of reasons including those who believed fully in their actions. The words of Tom Kettle an Irish National Volunteer, who shortly before his death at the Somme in September 1916 wrote these lines to his daughter. before his death at the Somme in September 1916 wrote these lines to his daughter.

Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,

Died not for Flag, nor King, nor Emperor,

But for a dream, born in a herdsman's shed,

And for the Secret Scripture of the poor.

The experiences of republicans, nationalists, unionists and all others form part of our collective memory. They are part of who we are, as a nation, and as a community.

While we must remember these events we also must critically engage with our past. The past one hundred years, while a fraction of the life of the nation, was taken up by partition, divergence, exclusion and conflict.

These failures must be consigned to the past.

I believe we are on a course towards greater unity, convergence, inclusion, and peace. This is not a bland aspiration. It is the way to deliver equality, prosperity and reconciliation for all in our diverse community.

The recent cycle of economic growth and recession demonstrates the inter dependant nature of the economy north and south. The establishment of the Northern committee of NAMA, dealing with 5 Billion Euro worth of loans, demonstrates the level of our inter dependence.

For too long the economy of the border counties has been the victim of the changing tides of cross border trade. This level of volatility and instability undermines the economy of the community living along the Border. We need to develop joint processes that will create the stability vital to sustainable development.

On a national level there is no advantage to having two competing economic development agencies vying with each other for Foreign Direct Investment. It is counter productive. It confuses investors and drives down value as we compete to provide the cheapest option.

As one US investor recently said in relation to the North, ‘It is hard to get excited about a market place and labour pool of 1.5 million people, but when you look at 6 million people then it gets interesting’

So we need to plan our economy on an all Ireland basis. The plan must identify how to use our assets, our people, our universities and our reputation to grow the economy in a sustainable and beneficial way. We do not have the luxury of a long time to ponder this. We are in the middle of the greatest economic challenge to our nation and we need to act quickly and strategically. The decisions we arrive at will have implication for generations. Let’s not repeat the past. Let’s not circle the wagons. Let’s look at how we grow the economy and how we can deliver for all.

Greater co-operation is not restricted to the economy. While we face the challenge of growing the economy, we also face the issue of national debt. This will challenge how we deliver services. This is true of the Irish

Government and is true of the incoming British Government.

For are part we are opposed to cuts in frontline services. However we are for the effective use of public money to deliver efficient and effective public services.

We have continually raised the issue of duplication of administration in an island the size of ours. We cannot sustain such duplication. We have two Arts councils, two sports councils, three bodies with responsibility for tourism, and as I already highlighted two competing economic development agencies.

We have patients and families in the north having to travel to England for treatment that is available in Dublin. We have patients in Letterkenny travelling to Dublin when the same services are available in Derry.

The Border has a negative impact on all communities who live along it.

Two currencies, two tax systems and a myriad of issues which affect citizens' everyday existence - things like wages, pensions, benefits, terms and conditions - all of these are daily 'bugbears' for people living in this region, and especially for those who have to cross the invisible border to work in the "other jurisdiction".

The views and experience of civic society, and the community and voluntary sector from those counties must be a vital part of our deliberations, and we must

ensure that there are structures in place into which your thoughts can be fed

These are only examples of duplication of administration and while they have a cost implication the lack of co-ordination also impacts on the quality service.

Are we getting the best out of our public spending? We end this duplication and competition and develop and deliver co-ordinated services. It makes sense to plan and deliver public services in an all Ireland context.

We need to have a rational discussion as to how we develop initiatives that benefit communities across the island. Such a discussion must be objective and free from kneejerk dogma.

Within civic society we have much to share and learn from across the Island. One of the impacts of partition as been the separate development of communities. This has been on religious grounds in the north or between all communities north and south. Yet we all share common problem that do not recognise any border.

I believe that greater cooperation within civic society can bring about innovation, create change and promote best practise. In particular we need to jointly address the issue of community regeneration, sustainable economic growth, environmental protection, racism, road safety, child protection and social inclusion.

Again I would ask what more can civic society do to deepen our understanding and actions to address these issues.

While I have highlighted areas for additional work and activity I would also like to pay tribute to those in civic society who have and continue to be the treads that hold our nation together.

I am thinking of the Trade Union movement, the credit union movement, and other economic bodies.

For too long culture and sports have been seen to be divisive in our society but some of the innovative and symbolic reconciliation work has be conducted by the Irish Language Movement working to progress the links with Scots Gaelic, lowland Scots and Ulster Scots. Of course the success of the Irish Boxing, Rugby and Cricket teams have done much to promote reconciliation and shared identity across the country.

I would like to give a special mention of the work of the GAA to promote understanding and inclusion. A couple of weeks ago in Cookstown was the second Cúchulainn Cup. This is a new GAA initiative that focuses on attracting new participation in controlled schools while promoting tolerance and understanding by bringing together school children from different areas in Belfast, Armagh, Derry City, Limavady, Omagh, Enniskillen, Cavan and Newry to compete in the GAA’s first cross-community hurling tournament.

Over the past number of years considerable progress has been made to stabilise the institutions in the north, to build up reconciliation, equality and peace.

The current economic crisis is a challenge. If we are to meet that challenge we need new ways of working, we need to place the common good front and centre. I would welcome the view of those gathered here as to how we can all progress this vital agenda.”

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