Donegal Senator Niall Blaney, was in Belfast this week to meet with political and community groups.
The Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Northern Ireland, travelled as part of the Fianna Fáil committee on Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement.
He was joined on the trip by Cavan-Monaghan TD Brendan Smith, Cathal Crowe, Senator Erin McGreehan from Louth and Dublin City Councillor Briege MacOscar.
Senator Blaney commented: “Next April marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and ahead of that, I and my fellow committee members very much wanted to discuss the current state of play and to learn how the agreement is now viewed a quarter of a century later, and what we need to do to address the current challenges.”
“It is very obvious to all that the present situation is very challenging. The effect of Brexit, specifically the Protocol, is resulting in many pressure points and stresses in Northern Ireland.”
“A key takeaway for me from discussions is the need to resolve the protocol issue in a way that both sides of the community can buy into. There is a very strong belief on the unionist side that the protocol undermines and indeed threatens the Good Friday Agreement, and such concerns must be addressed rather than dismissed.”
“We were told in one meeting that if there was a referendum on the Good Friday Agreement today, it would be rejected by unionists. This might seem shocking or surprising to some, but it clearly shows the strength of feeling.”
“Nevertheless, there continues to be a continuing belief in the need for, and the value of, engagement and discussion. Everyone wants to see the Assembly meeting again and a working Executive put in place. It is imperative that the issues surrounding the Protocol are fixed as soon as possible and efforts to do so must not slacken.”
“As Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Northern Ireland, I found the high regard and trust that there is for Micheál Martin very heartening, and the government must make the most of that. The enormous respect that Bertie Ahern continues to be command in unionist circles is also very striking and should also be borne in mind by government.”
“Consistent engagement, whether formal or informal, will be crucial in coming weeks and months. The Good Friday Agreement was transformative, and with its twenty-fifth anniversary imminent we need to do all we can to protect it.”