By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he did not think twice about coming to Northern Ireland a week after a security alert disrupted a visit to Belfast by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.
Mr Martin said he was heartened by the cross-community condemnation of the alert at a peace event last week.
He is visiting Derry where he is carrying out a number of engagements.
He is due to deliver a speech to the Hume Foundation in the city’s Playhouse theatre later.
Last Friday, Mr Coveney had to abandon a speech to the Hume Foundation in Belfast following a security alert when a van driver was threatened by two gunmen and a hoax bomb placed in the vehicle.
Police have linked loyalist paramilitaries to the incident.
Mr Martin condemned that incident when he spoke to the media in Derry.
He said: “The violence that was imposed on that gentleman, to be forced at gunpoint to make that harrowing journey, the vast majority of people on this island, who are respectful of political views, would abhor such an act.
“We thought those actions were consigned to history.
“I was heartened by the cross-community unity in the condemnation of that incident.
“We should never be afraid of discourse, of dialogue, and in many ways the John and Pat Hume Foundation is remembering a man and woman, who above and beyond anything else, championed the virtue of dialogue and the need to keep talking.”
Mr Martin added: “As Taoiseach I have been engaged with all perspectives in Northern Ireland, irrespective of people’s position.
“I will continue to meet everyone in a spirit of cooperation, and endeavouring to have greater harmony and progress.
“Democracy must always triumph, we will always take advice from the PSNI and An Garda Siochana, and societies must have the freedom to engage, to discuss, and to reflect and that is critically.
“We know at a much larger scale what can happen.
“We have a war in Ukraine that has stemmed from authoritarianism versus democracy, stems from a fear of democracy and a fear of dialogues, that is what Russia is at.”
'Didn't think twice'
Mr Martin said he “didn’t think twice” about coming to Derry following the security alert.
He said: “This was scheduled well in advance of that.
“I was invited by the North West Partnership Programme, and I am very impressed by how they work.
“They asked me to come here and talk through potential support into the future and ideas we can learn from the group.”
Mr Martin’s address to the Hume Foundation will focus on building common ground between north and south.
The Taoiseach also met business leaders in the city and visited Ulster University’s Magee campus to discuss cross-border research projects.
The research projects are funded through the Irish Government’s shared island initiative.
He also visited Altnagelvin Hospital, where the Irish Government has part-funded cross-border cancer services.