Britain is Ireland’s closest friend, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told an assembly of parliamentarians from both jurisdictions at the Dublin parliament this week.
He described the two-day meeting in the Senate chamber at Leinster House early this week as “a historic and important occasion”.
His audience included elected representatives from parliaments and assemblies throughout Britain and Ireland, including unionist members of the Six-County Assembly at Stormont.
Mr Kenny said the “ground-breaking” visit to Ireland of Elizabeth Windsor last year had “marked a turning point” in relations between the two countries.
“It was an emotional time for everyone involved,” the Taoiseach said. He added that the “totality of this British-Irish relationship” had become “still deeper”.
The Taoiseach said both governments had “an ongoing duty of care” to the “partnership” established in the North.
He added that, while “peace at political level is very important, it is at the community level that breakdowns can occur”.
With regard to the 26-County State’s economic crisis, the Dublin and London governments were “very much on the same page”.
As well as being the State’s “most important economic partner”, he said that “Britain is our nearest neighbour and our closest friend on the world stage”.
The meeting took place on the anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings on 17 May, 1974. Thirty-three Irish citizens died in co-ordinated attack at the hands of a loyalist death squads, who are believed to have been directed by British Crown forces.
A ceremony to mark the 38th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings will be held in Dublin on Thursday.
Journalists raised the timing of the event with the Britain’s Direct Ruler in the North, Owen Paterson.
Paterson defended the British government’s refusal to release original intelligence documents for the purposes of inquiring into the attacks.
“We have made available a synopsis of the material which is relevant but I’m afraid the inquiries that we’ve had have confirmed my scepticism of the value of public inquiries,” he said.
He defended his continuing role in the North, following Sinn Fein suggestions that his powers be transferred to the Stormont Assembly.
“Just as an example, last week I had a list of six [British] cabinet ministers that I wanted to tackle on a number of issues where their responsibilities overlapped on Northern Ireland.”
He said politicians at Stormont did not realise how much British legislation affected the Six Counties, he said, including, for example, more than two-thirds of the legislation included in the recent queen’s speech.
On the continuing controversy over the 1989 murder of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane, shot dead by loyalists who were in collusion with British Crown forces, he said: “We came to the conclusion that in order to deliver our promise to Mrs Finucane to get to the truth, we didn’t need to go to the steps of setting up a public inquiry because so much of the work had been done.
“What we could do, which was a very radical move, was to apologise in person to Mrs Finucane and family and the prime minister did that. That was a huge gesture. The family came to Downing Street and he apologised and announced that what we want to do is get the truth as rapidly as possible.
“We have appointed an immensely distinguished international lawyer, Desmond da Silva, to review all the papers and to deliver a report to us in December.”
The family have rejected the review as another time-wasting exercise by the British government.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media in Ireland was blasted this week by Republican Sinn Fein for repeatedly advocating British and Stormont policy on the North while ignoring the “abnormality” of devolved British rule.
“With honourable exceptions the mainstream media have simply parroted the official line peddled by Stormont, Leinster House and Westminster that the Six-County state is now a normal democratic society. The reality is far removed from this,” said party leader Des Dalton.
The North of Ireland “remains an undemocratic and sectarian statelet”, he said in a statement.
“The Stormont Assembly has an executive with no opposition while implementing a system which forces people to designate themselves along sectarian lines.
“The state itself continues to rely on draconian legislation, non-jury courts and a paramilitary police force to enforce its writ.
“The internment without-trial of Republican veterans such as Martin Corey and Marian Price along with the ongoing struggle for political status by the Republican prisoners in Maghaberry prison all point to the abnormality of this state.”
He said his party had warned in 1998 that the Good Friday Agreement failed on two levels -- it failed to address the root cause of conflict in Ireland, which was British rule and partition, and it served to institutionalise sectarianism and lead to an increased polarisation of the two communities. These arguments had been borne out.
“As an alternative to all of this Republican Sinn Féin have consistently advocated the Éire Nua programme as a non-sectarian and democratic way forward,” he said.
“With its provision for decentralisation of decision making powers from national to provincial, to regional, right down to local or community level it gives all sections of the Irish people a real voice and involvement in the decisions that affect them.”