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Taoiseach accuses Sinn Fein of trying to ‘close the debate’

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has launched an attack on Sinn Fein, accusing its political opponents of trying to shut down debate and avoid accountability.

Mr Martin said Sinn Fein had ‘built its whole existence honoring a campaign of violence, but is now attacking and prosecuting anyone who claims to have supported particular actions within that campaign’.

In response, a Sinn Fein spokesperson described it as a “bizarre and fanciful attack” and said the Taoiseach had better spend his final weeks in office dealing with the cost of living crisis.

Mr Martin was speaking as he addressed his party’s annual Wolfe Tone commemoration in Co Kildare.

Referring to Sinn Fein, he said: “Anyone who sincerely believes in a republican vision for our country should be appalled at the growing attempt to bully and shut down debate by a party that refuses to accept the basic responsibility accepted by all the others.

“There is something seriously wrong with a party that has built its entire existence honoring a campaign of violence, but is now attacking and prosecuting anyone who claims to have supported particular actions within that campaign.”

The Taoiseach also accused Sinn Fein of “aggressive management” of the media.

“It’s a lot of things – but democratic republicanism is not one of them.”

Micheal Martin speaking at Wolfe Tone’s annual Fianna Fail commemoration in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare (Niall Carson/PA)

A Sinn Fein spokesman replied: “Instead of bizarre and fanciful attacks, the Taoiseach would do better to focus their attention on the spiraling cost of living crisis, a housing crisis which is worsening by the day day, chronic waiting lists for health and the climate emergency.

“It would be a better use of his remaining weeks in the office.”

During his speech in Kildare, the Taoiseach also said opportunities to tackle bigotry and disadvantage had not been taken since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Mr Martin said that one of the main objectives of the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement was “to eliminate the causes of conflict, to overcome the legacy of history and to heal the divisions that have arisen from it. resulted”.

He said: “The sad reality is that almost a quarter of a century later far too little has been done.

“Too much time has been wasted.

“Too few have been willing to undertake the groundwork of questioning themselves and finding ways to build shared respect across historical barriers.

“Opportunities to fight disadvantage and bigotry have been missed and remain unfulfilled.

“There has been a lot of talk about unity and reconciliation, but very little work has been done to actually build the bridges that make this possible.

“One of the great failures of the past 25 years is that very little work has been done to explore differences, similarities and opportunities in practical but fundamental areas.

“There has been no shortage of people willing to make big statements about services, but it is remarkable how little has been done to quantify the current situation on both sides of the border.

“That’s why we are already publishing the most detailed research ever on health services, trade, childcare, education and other vital areas between North and South.

“To give a very practical example, education research shows huge disparities in early school leaving as well as differences in access and approaches to supporting both achievement and inclusion.

“It gives us a plan for the future – a plan of action that benefits everyone on our island.”

The Taoiseach went on to say that the Irish people remain among Ukraine’s strongest supporters.

He added: “I am proud of how the people of Ireland have said with such clarity that we support Ukraine, we support its European future and that Russia must be held accountable for a conflict for which it alone is responsible. .

“The welcome that has been extended to people fleeing this terrible conflict is a moment we should always be proud of, even as it puts a lot of pressure on key resources.”