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Speech by Bertie Ahern on the resumption of devolved government in Northern Ireland, (8 May 2007)

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Text: Bertie Ahern ... Page compiled: Martin Melaugh

Speech by Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), on the resumption of devolved government in Northern Ireland, Stormont, Belfast, (8 May 2007)


"First and Deputy First Ministers, Prime Minister, Mister Speaker, Members of the Legislative Assembly, friends from the United States and across the world, distinguished guests. At the outset I'd like to join with others, as you did in the Assembly this morning, in expressing from the Irish Government our sympathies on the untimely passing of George Dawson last evening. To his many friends across the island, our thoughts are with his wife and family and his party colleagues and to you First Minister and everybody in the Democratic Unionist Party we send our sympathies.

Here in Belfast, ladies and gentlemen, on this day we mark the historic beginning of a new era for Northern Ireland, an era founded on peace and on partnership, an era of new politics and new realities and between British and Irish, between nationalists and unionists we're now agreed on a vital consensus on our future together and the events that we've had the privilege of witnessing are a powerful statement that peace is not impossible and conflict is not inevitable. We cannot undo our sad and turbulent past and none of us can forget the many victims of 'the Troubles', but we can in shaping our future in a new and better way. And in doing so we can put the divisions of the past behind us forever. Northern Ireland is now a place of peace and promise.

I warmly congratulate the First and Deputy First Ministers and our colleagues in the Executive as they take on the duties and responsibilities of office, we look forward to working with the new Executive and for our part we promise that we will do so in a true spirit of partnership and friendship. Working together we can make life better for everybody. Challenges yes, but challenges in a climate of real hope. And today relationships on this island and between Ireland and Britain stand transformed. There are many people who have played a part in the vital process and I congratulate every one of them today. As Prime Minister Blair has said the many predecessors that we both have had and John Major and John Bruton and Dick Spring, and particularly Albert Reynolds, John Hume and David Trimble and Gerry Adams and all of the people we've negotiated with, the Kennedy's and Ted, whose been always a great friend through a long, long period and I thank them, and I thank all of the politicians that have been involved, those who were involved in the early talks back a decade ago, my colleagues David Andrews, Liz O'Donnell and my colleagues now, all the Secretaries of State that are here. The Tanniste and Dermot Ahern, our Foreign Minister, and all of the cabinet who have worked with us. And I thank all of the other politicians here, particularly all the politicians in Northern Ireland who worked so hard and so long and all those I've had the pleasure of working with over the last ten years.

But the people of Ireland know that this would not have come about without the commitment and dedication of one person in particular, Prime Minister Tony Blair. This was not a process that promised quick or easy rewards but he has been a true friend of peace, and a true friend of Ireland and for that we express our heartfelt thanks. I thank him, not so much for the tea, not so much for the castles that I had the pleasure of spending so many times in, but for the true determination that he had for just sticking with it, for ten tough years he has spent more times dealing with the issues of the island of Ireland than any person ever could have asked any other person to do. Tony, thank you for that.

As we step ladies and gentlemen from this place of history we must be resolved that this should be the last generation on these islands to feel the anger and pain of old quarrels. We've had it for hundreds and hundreds of years.

We know the unique and delicate balance that binds this process together. Our task is to protect and nurture what has now been achieved. 86-years ago, on the 22nd day of June 1921, when he opened Stormont King George V said, and I quote,

I appeal to Irish men to pause, to stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and forget and to join in making, for the land which they love, a new era of peace, contentment and goodwill.
End of quote. This is the spirit in which we assemble today, to stretch out the hand of conciliation and to renew the call for a new era of mutual respect and peace. I wish you all well and thank you."


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