NI leaders reflect and look to future

Published Wednesday, 02 January 2013
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Northern Ireland's First and deputy First Ministers have been reflecting on the year that was, as they now turn their attentions to the future and prepare for the challenges held by 2013.

NI leaders reflect and look to future
NI leaders Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness in Hong Kong in 2012. (© Presseye)

For First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson, 2012 was "a year filled with enormous pride".

He looked back on the part played by Northern Ireland in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, including a pre-announced visit by the Queen.

"Such events would have been unimaginable only a decade ago," Mr Robinson said.

He also noted the commemorations, marking 100 years since the launch of Titanic and the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.

And there was praise for local sport - both in terms of the work needed to successfully host the Irish Open at Royal Portrush and the "heroic efforts" of Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

"Their accomplishments were a great source of pride for Northern Ireland," Mr Robinson said.

But while the First Minister also recognised the difficulties - especially on the economic front - he added that 2013 would bring both challenges and "much to look forward to as well".

I wish everyone living, working and visiting in Northern Ireland a happy and healthy New Year, with God's richest blessing for 2013.

Peter Robinson

Highlighting Londonderry as the UK City of Culture, the forthcoming World Police and Fire Games and the G8 summit to be held in Co Fermanagh, Mr Robinson pointed the underlying stability.

"Being able to host any of these events is only possible because of the stability which has been secured in recent years," he said.

"I know the people of Northern Ireland want to keep this province moving forward."

And with that in mind, he also noted the young people who had in years past left in search of jobs and a better quality of life.

"I want to keep our brightest and best at home - we can't afford to lose another generation," Mr Robinson said.

On one of the key issues still to be resolved in 2013, the DUP leader noted the opposition to the restriction of the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall - a decision which he referred to as "ill-considered and provocative".

Mr Robinson added: "People are entitled - even justified - in protesting, but nobody can justify threats, acts of violence or other unlawful behaviour.

"Right-thinking unionists will want to channel their opposition to this, and similar decisions, into political activity aimed at strengthening our British culture and identity".

Pledging a redoubling of efforts to attract more jobs, the First Minister urged political leaders to "contribute to moving forward, rather than opting out and dodging difficult compromises".

"I will work tirelessly with all parties to build a truly shared future for Northern Ireland - a future where everyone's culture and identity is respected," he said.

For Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, 2012 was a year in which significant challenges were overcome and real advancements were made in attracting economic investment.

During the last 12 months, the unfinished journey of our peace process has continued to unfold. I look forward to 2013 with hope and ambition.

Martin McGuinness

But he further noted that "the worldwide economic crisis has also left many of our citizens jobless and driven many employers to the wall".

Mr McGuinness pledged to see efforts to counter that intensify and said Northern Ireland's politicians must unite "against the punishing austerity policies driven by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition".

Recalling the ongoing work as part of the peace process, he hoped for further progress.

"I earnestly hope that we will continue to move towards the development of a new phase in our peace process in 2013, and that the seeds of reconciliation among and between all our people will grow," the deputy First Minister said.

"My decision to meet Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Belfast earlier this year was a sincere effort on my behalf to advance reconciliation between republicans and unionists and consolidate our peace process."

Recalling how 2012 had marked the beginning of a decade of centenary commemorations, Mr McGuinness foresaw challenges ahead, but called for "imagination and compromise" to meet them.

"I dearly hope that this era will become one in which we at last replace division with new human and political relationships, and forge lasting peace and friendship between our communities - and the islands of Ireland and Britain," he said.

© UTV News
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8 Comments
ZZ in Belfast wrote (694 days ago):
@Ryan, The Good Friday agreement did gave people in NI the right to claim Irish Nationality, but in the BRITISH STATE (UK). There have also been further agreements i.e. st andrews - power sharing, respecting each other's identity flags etc.. with the promise that if there was an overwhelming support here a referendum would be called on the border. These are the facts agreed by nationalists at the good friday agreement, that this is within the union, so yes i would classify the Irish Tricolour as a foreign flag. Even world maps/internet classify them different countries. For the 2 flags to be flown up together, i would expect there to be some kind of agreement first in storment, then between westminister and dublin, on issues like tax payments, foreign policy in NI, which storment has no control over, and also for dublin to match the contributions to the stormant block grant that westminister gives it!! If there was some kind of agreement like this, then fair enough Northern Ireland, would be a true combination of the two states. But as things stand it is not. The union flag is the flag that represents us like or not, and although as you rightly said SF/SDLP have the power to restore it in Belfast council city hall, i would like to remind you that the 6 seats held by alliance most of their support has come from the unionist community, so things could change after the next elections. I also refer to the latest census results, where something like 25% of people called themselves "Irish", 48% "British" and "Northern Irish" was the next highest group. True Nationalism does not acknowledge these 2 statements, indicating that support for a united ireland is falling and support for "Northern Ireland" is rising, be it in the union or as an independent state in the further i don't know.
Einstein in Belfast wrote (694 days ago):
"the charade we saw at St Patricks church as Sinn Fein/IRA created another 'flashpoint' where none existed before." ..but that's not true though, is it? The Chairman of the Carrickhill residents Committee said that they had for years continually asked the RUC/PSNI to police the situation properly re: the sectarian behaviour of marchers, or else it would end up with the Parades Commission. The "Police", for reasons better known to themselves (although we can perhaps hazard a guess) declined to do so - & that's exactly where it ended up! Would you like sectarian & biogoted behaviour on your very doorstep? No,& nor would i & no one could blame you for that either. "How in a final stunt to provoke Loyalists they raised the whole flag issue. 2013 will be the year that concessions to Republicanism ends or this peace process will be going nowhere fast." If it's one thing that Loyalist don't require, it's being provoked - they have always been "proactive", shall we say,on their own behalf in their own "activities". The "flag issue" was raisd by loyalists, not northern Catholics (there was a democratic vote to restrict the flying of the flag only to designated days - incidentally the same number of days it is flown by Her Majesty the Queen from Windsor Castle, no less). And be in no doubt, the ending of the Peace Process is exactly what the Loyalists have in mind, all along.
Ryan in Belfast wrote (694 days ago):
I hope 2013 is a great year and im sure there will be great events planned. These flag protests are going to be reoccuring again. The only people who have the power to have thee Union flag put back up over Belfast city hall is SF/SDLP. If Loyalists want their flag back up, the only way that will happen is if the Union flag flies alongside the Irish Tricolour on City hall. And before a hail of comments comes at me saying "Thats a foreign flag" etc etc, my reply is: No, its not. The Irish tricolour is the flag of half the population of the 6 counties. Im Irish, not british. Just because im Irish doesnt mean im hostile towards british, its just a simple fact im Irish and not british. Both flags should fly or none. Thats fair.
charles in lisbellaw wrote (695 days ago):
Reading this story just proves yet again how detached from reality and what a complete farce the so called "peace process" is in true reality. As this pair of so called "leaders" extol and regale us with wonderful tales of splendid advances in community relations, and how fantastic everything now is, the two communities are becoming more polarised by the minute, the gunmen and bombers are going about their business with impunity, the peace walls are growing by the day, and more and more people are making preparations for a full scale return to violence. What a pair of buffoons living in a cuckoo land.
Michael H in Belfast wrote (695 days ago):
Recalling how 2012 had marked the beginning of a decade of centenary commemorations, Mr McGuinness foresaw challenges ahead, but called for "imagination and compromise" to meet them. - What a complete joke. Does he honestly believe that Prortestants will just forget the charade we saw at St Patricks church as Sinn Fein/IRA created another 'flashpoint' where none existed before. How in a final stunt to provoke Loyalists they raised the whole flag issue. 2013 will be the year that concessions to Republicanism ends or this peace process will be going nowhere fast.
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