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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Julien Behal/PA Archive
Northern Ireland

Martin criticises SF for 'playing politics' with Northern Ireland

In his annual Wolfe Tone address, the FF leader also says Enda Kenny has added nothing to the Northern agenda.

Updated, 14:10

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has launched a stinging attack on Sinn Féin’s role in the Northern Ireland executive, accusing the party of looking to glorify the work of the IRA and dodging calls to apologise for its armed efforts.

In the leader’s annual Wolfe Tone commemorative address to party members, Martin also attacked the government – and particularly Taoiseach Enda Kenny – for reducing its general engagement in Northern affairs.

“It is as best foolish and at worst reckless to step back and believe that the DUP and Sinn Fein are capable of working in the interests of all groups,” Martin charged, speaking to members at the event in Bodenstown.

“They have constantly shown an interest in putting party interests ahead of broader interests.”

The Fianna Fáil leader told members that Sinn Féin had supported a recent welfare bill that had gone through Stormont, but had still tried “to play politics” with its provisions.

“Therefore they pretended to campaign against it and voted against it when it was clear that an Assembly majority was going to push it through in any case,” he said.

As the First Minister Peter Robinson said in a largely unreported speech this week, ‘Sinn Féin wants devolution but they don’t want any of the difficult decisions that come with it.

Playing politics and putting their party interest first is a consistent part of their ideology – something we see every day in the Dáil.

Sinn Féin ‘still glorifying the IRA’

Martin also criticised Sinn Féin for what he saw as hypocrisy of a party that continued to fundraise by selling IRA merchandise – branding the group an ‘undefeated army’ – and glorifying past atrocities, while “refusing to be open about their past or apologise for it”.

The former minister said Fianna Fáil’s own achievements in bringing peace to Northern Ireland were something it could itself be proud of. “No party in Dáil Éireann showed anything like the deep commitment which we showed to getting the process underway and keeping at it no matter what obstacles were thrown up,” he said.

“Unfortunately too many people today think that the work is over – that we can take for granted what has been achieved.  This could be a mistake of historic proportions.

“The Irish government has dramatically reduced its level of engagement with Northern affairs.  Given the effort that went into this process over a very long time by very many people, this sort of disengagement and complacency by our own government is unacceptable.”

Martin said Taoiseach Enda Kenny had attended only “the bare minimum of meetings” concerning Northern affairs and there had been “no push for initiatives to undertake vital anti-sectarian”.

Martin also again called for reform of the Oireachtas “so that the government no longer can strangle debate – and so that we have a second chamber which can ask the tough questions essential for accountability.”

The party’s election manifesto last year had said it would support the abolition of the Seanad “if our proposals for the reform of the electoral system and of government are enacted” – and had noted that two-chamber parliaments “are not an essential part of parliamentary democracy”.

Martin’s criticism of SF is ‘bogus’ – Adams

Responding to Martin’s marks, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said his counterpart’s criticism of Sinn Féin was “bogus”.

“The end of conflict, the peace process and the power sharing institutions are among the greatest achievements of modern years,” Adams insisted.

“Sinn Féin on the Executive is attempting, in the absence of fiscal powers, to manage a serious economic crisis and is succeeding much more effectively than Fianna Fáil in government or in opposition has,” he said.

Adams said Martin’s comments “have more to do with his fear of Sinn Féin in the south than a concern about the north”, and said the criticisms he had offered of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition rang hollow because the current government was merely implementing the policies of the previous one in which Martin was a minister.

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