Statement from David Andrews, T.D. Minister for Foreign Affairs

I have today (Friday, 21 January 2000) informed the Taoiseach of my wish to retire from the post of Minister for Foreign Affairs on Wednesday next. I will formally tender my resignation on that date in accordance with the Constitution. I announced last year that I would not be contesting the next General Election and now is an opportune time for me to retire from the Cabinet. I believe in particular that the Taoiseach, when he goes into the next election, should be in a position to present his future Cabinet team to the electorate.

The Good Friday Agreement is a watershed in Irish history, utterly changing forever relationships on this island. Its achievement has given me huge personal fulfilment. And, as I have consistently said publicly, a large part of my personal motivation in entering politics over thirty years ago was to make a contribution to peace, reconciliation and justice on the one island we are all so proud to share. With the recent establishment of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, in particular the North-South Ministerial Council and the Executive, I know that a new era has opened for all Irish people. It is now for younger people, of all traditions, to seize the opportunity and to move it on.

As I leave office, the preparatory work has been completed for Ireland to secure a seat on the UN Security Council in 2001. During this and my previous tenure as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have had a particular and deep commitment to the needs of the Third World. I am, therefore, very proud to have helped, with Liz O'Donnell, to bring about the vastly increased level of our contribution to overseas aid in recent years.

We need to continue building on and developing this in an imaginative and generous way.

For a small nation, Ireland has an important role to play in focussing world attention on human and civil rights in developing countries. I am proud of the vital and distinctive part we played in East Timor, as well as many other regions of disadvantage and conflict. It is a core part of our background and heritage that our policy should be both advanced and distinctive in this area, as in many others, including of course disarmament.

I want to express my warmest thanks to the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, T.D., for entrusting me with such a pivotal position in Government at a momentous time in the history of this island. His personal stewardship of the Good Friday Agreement on behalf of the Government was critical to its success. I wish him and my Cabinet colleagues continued success and I look forward to providing them with strong support from the backbenches. I also wish to thank deeply Albert Reynolds and the late Jack Lynch for the trust and responsibility, as Taoisigh, they reposed in me.

I would also like to express my appreciation to the civil servants in the Department of Foreign Affairs, and all the Departments in which I have served, for their outstanding commitment and for all their achievements.

I have successfully contested 11 General Elections and spent 35 fulfilling years in public life. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my wife, Annette who, along with the rest of my family, gave me total support throughout a career in public life. I also want to thank the Fianna Fáil organisation in Dun Laoghaire over the last 35 years. Their hard work and encouragement is something I have never taken for granted. Finally, I know I owe a great debt to the people of Dun Laoghaire for their support. I look forward to continuing to serve their interests until the next General Election.

Background Note for Editors

The Minister for Foreign Affairs will attend an EU General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on Monday 24 January and will Chair a meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on Tuesday 25 January before reporting that afternoon to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on his recent visits to Moscow and the Balkans.Top

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