27 April 2006 Edition
Irish unity: Call for government to publish Green paper
BY Mícheál MacDonncha
Ahern challenged to live up to 1916 message
Following the Government's revived Easter 1916 commemoration the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was challenged by Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin to implement the Proclamation by working for Irish reunification. As the Dáil resumed after the Easter break, Ó Caoláin called on Ahern to publish a Green Paper on Irish Unity and provide for Six-County representation in the Oireachtas.
On Tuesday Ó Caoláin said the best way to honour the men and women of 1916 would be to "strive for full implementation of the Proclamation and the hopes and promise it embodied". He called for "earnest and proactive work for Irish reunification". He called on the Taoiseach to establish an All-Party Oireachtas Committee on Irish Unity that would plan for Irish reunification, assessing all the implications and the needs to be addressed. He urged Ahern to commission a Green Paper on Irish Unity before the end of the current Dáil.
Ahern replied only with this: "I agree with the Deputy's comments on the Good Friday Agreement as I spend a huge amount of my time trying to do that."
This exposes again the absence of any strategy for achieving Irish unity on the part of the Irish government and points to the continuing need for republicans to pressurise Fianna Fáil on this core issue. The Good Friday Agreement provides for referenda on Irish unity but what is the Irish Government's strategy to persuade a section of unionism significant enough to ensure a majority for unity within the Six Counties? What is their strategy to prepare economically and administratively for Irish unity? These are issues on which they need to be challenged.
On Wednesday Ó Caoláin raised the issue of Six-County representation in the Dáil. Last year Ahern wrote to party leaders proposing that the Dáil should sit 'in committee' to facilitate attendance by invitation of MPs from the North. This was rejected by the PDs, Fine Gael and Labour and Ahern dropped the proposal. He is now proposing an Oireachtas Committee on the Good Friday Agreement that MPs would attend by invitation. Ó Caoláin called on Ahern to stick to his original proposal and slammed the partitionism of Fine Gael and Labour: "I ask the Taoiseach to note my regret that he has withdrawn his proposal to allow Six-County MPs to attend here in this institution and this year to participate in meetings of the Dáil, sitting as a committee of the entire House. The Taoiseach should use the opportunity to call on the leaders of the Fine Gael and Labour parties to withdraw their opposition to such a proposition, which would have ensured access for all Six-County MPs to this new and very important opportunity. Does the Taoiseach agree that partitionism, plain and simple, is at the root of their opposition to the proposal?"
Ahern simply confirmed his revised proposal for a new Oireachtas Committee.
On a lighter note, while acknowledging that he was made aware beforehand that Ó Caoláin and Gerry Adams would not be present at the State 1916 commemoration due to other Easter speaking engagements, Ahern commented: "It was a good day to pay tribute to Óglaigh na hÉireann, in particular." To which Ó Caoláin replied: "I assure the Taoiseach that I did."