Taoiseach urges opposition party not to use Anglo-Irish centenary for 'political objectives'

When asked if Éamon de Valera should have travelled to London for the negotiations, the Taoiseach laughed and said he would “leave that to the judgement of history”
Taoiseach urges opposition party not to use Anglo-Irish centenary for 'political objectives'

Marking the centenary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on December 6, 1921, the exhibition opens up significant historical records, official documents and private papers for the first time, including the first public presentation of both the Irish and British copies of the Treaty document.

The Taoiseach has urged opposition politicians not to use the centenary of the Anglo-Irish Treaty for "political objectives."

Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar attended an exhibition marking the centenary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on December 6, 1921, in Dublin Castle on Monday, when it was put to him that Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said that the Treaty had "copper-fastened" partition.

"My appeal to politicians of all descriptions is don't use past events for your own political objectives," Mr Martin said.

"That is doing history a total disservice. 

"I really would have to appeal to people to stand back from the partisan prism which we might look at history, go in there and look at it very openly. 

These were, in my view, good people, irrespective of what position they took.

"It's extraordinary to see young people of a fledgling state, go in there with some of the most experienced negotiators of long-standing, of the biggest empire in the world at the time and they did it with honour, dignity and integrity.

"That's the message I've always taken that from any articles I've read about the period, the absolute sincerity of the people involved and their commitment to the country.

"They were internationalists, they weren't narrow nationalists. They had a nationalist perspective, but they were very internationalist from the get-go.

"Ulster was an intractable problem.

"So there are many complex insights. We just should allow it happen and not look back to a narrow prism of our own."

The Taoiseach also defended the fact that there had been no official state ceremony to commemorate the Treaty, saying that an exhibition was "much more substantial."

Leo Varadkar said that he found it interesting how little Northern Ireland featured in the Treaty debates.

"Partition was not really a major issue in the debates, partition has already happened. Northern Ireland had already been established and Collins and de Valera agreed that coercing Ulster was never going to work, that it would have to be done by consent and by persuasion and eventually it took others much longer to come around to that view."

When asked if Éamon de Valera should have travelled to London for the negotiations, the Taoiseach laughed and said he would “leave that to the judgement of history.”

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