Taoiseach Bertie Ahern borrowed the words of Ian Paisley today to tell a republican commemoration that a settlement in the North was at its closest for two centuries.
Mr Ahern also paid tribute to his British counterpart, Tony Blair, saying the Prime Minister had achieved William Gladstone’s mission to “pacify” Ireland.
Mr Ahern was speaking at the annual commemoration of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown, Co Kildare.
“In 200 years, there has never been as much dialogue and interaction between all the significant political groupings on this island as there is today,” Mr Ahern said.
“Nor has there ever been such broad agreement as exists now on the political framework that will govern the future evolution of relations within the North, between North and South, and between Britain and Ireland.”
Signalling his optimism over the St Andrews Agreement on restoring devolved government to the North, Mr Ahern borrowed the words of the Democratic Unionist Party leader.
“Let me quote, perhaps for the first time at this commemoration, from Dr Ian Paisley.
“He said at St Andrews that we were at a crossroads. He spoke of a new light that could shine on our children and our grandchildren.
“We do not agree on everything, but we fully share those sentiments,” he said.
Turning his attention to Mr Blair, he said the Prime Minister had made an “extraordinary historic contribution to the consolidation of peace in Ireland”.
Referring to former British prime minister William Gladstone’s remarks in 1868, that his “mission is to pacify Ireland”, Mr Ahern said: “It is Tony Blair who has actually achieved it.”
The North’s politicians have until November 10 to say if they are prepared to sign up to the deal outlined by the two national leaders a fortnight ago after three days of talks in St Andrews, Scotland.
If they back the deal, they will set in train a series of choreographed moves which could see Mr Paisley and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness become shadow First and Deputy First Ministers next month.
If the parties refuse to sign up to the deal or default on it, Northern Secretary Peter Hain has warned the Assembly will be wound down and the British and Irish Governments will implement their Plan B.
Mr Ahern stressed his belief that progress could be embraced in the coming weeks.
“I believe the agreement at St Andrews will finally and fully unlock the massive potential for permanent peace and progress on this island,” he said.
“That agreement addresses the reasonable concerns of all in relation to the outstanding issues. It underpins the Good Friday Agreement and envisages full support by all for policing and the criminal justice institutions.
“The conditions for concluding the peace process have never been more promising.
“As they reflect on the agreement at St Andrews, the leaders of the Northern parties are carrying the burden of history on their shoulders.
“But I believe that they have the strength and capacity to deliver,” he added.