Taoiseach opens Fianna Fáil party office in Crossmaglen
July 27, 2010
By Brónagh Murphy
Taoiseach Brian Cowen spent several hours in Crossmaglen on Thursday evening to officially open the Fianna Fáil party office and attend a special fundraising dinner held in his honour.
The occasion was lauded as both historic and significant in that it is the first visit by a Taoiseach to the town. National and local press were there to record the special occasion when Mr Cowen and his entourage arrived at the Cross Square Hotel shortly after 8.00pm.
A number of Dáil Ministers and TDs accompanied Mr Cowen, including Ministers Éamon Ó Cuív and Dermot Ahern and TDs Dr. Rory O’Hanlon, Cecilia Keaveney and Margaret Conlon.
The Taoiseach greeted invited guests and members of the public before holding a brief press conference.
Mr Cowen said that, initially, the party’s main objective in the north is to establish a Forum in each county and pointed out that those already set up in Armagh, Down and Fermanagh, were fully operational and working well.
Contesting elections in the north is something the party will make a decision on in the future, he said, adding that its members will engage constructively and proactively with the public to ensure people understand Fianna Fáil policies.
“Obviously as a democratic republican party we have been very clear about what our ultimate political objectives are, but we believe in dialogue and constructive and democratic developments,” the Taoiseach said.
“It’s about accommodation between all the traditions on the island and we, as the major political organisation in the Republic, are very anxious to have a structure to the arrangements in the north.”
Proceedings then continued inside at a special dinner where Mr Cowen addressed an audience of around 150 supporters.
He told those gathered that it was with ‘great pleasure and delight’ that he was in Crossmaglen to open the party office. He paid tribute to the hard work and efforts of the Armagh County Forum members, Monaghan County councillors and his Oireachtas colleagues, all of which has led to the establishment of a strong party base in the area, he said.
“We appreciate the work of the County Forums and it is our intention to set up a Forum in every county in Ireland. It is an important part of our work,” he told the audience.
Speaking on his party’s vision for the future, Mr Cowen said: “We have a very open and pragmatic approach. We are a constitutional republican party and we make no secret of the aspirations on which this party was founded. It has always been very clear in our mind what it is we are seeking to achieve, that is to reconcile this country and not being prisoners of our past history. To be part of a generation that will build a new Ireland, an Ireland of which we can all be proud.”
Martin McAllister, Chairman of the Armagh County Fianna Fáil Forum, chaired the event and formally welcomed the Taoiseach to Crossmaglen, saying the occasion was ‘another step towards uniting the republican family on all of this island’.
He pointed out that this area of south Armagh has a very long history of attachment with Fianna Fáil and referred to Camlough native and Fianna Fáil party stalwart, the late Frank Aiken, as ‘a titan of his time’.
Mr McAllister says uniting the people of this country will not be an easy task but Fianna Fáil has ‘stretched out its hand across the border to our unionist neighbours’ and has an ‘ongoing relationship with pragmatic unionism here in the six counties’.
That developing relationship should not be ambushed but should be the ‘corner-stone’ of the party’s movement forward, he added.
The evening drew to a close with a musical performance by Sionán Murphy, Ceallach Murphy, Carol Hughes and Emma Hughes who sang the folk ballad ‘Reasonland’. The Taoiseach thanked the girls for their performance and complimented them on their exceptional talent.