NI peace 'not tarnished by flag unrest'

Published Thursday, 31 January 2013
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The First and deputy First Ministers have told a conference on European peace funding that the recent unrest over flags does not "take the shine" from the good work that has been done to bring communities in Northern Ireland together.

NI peace 'not tarnished by flag unrest'
Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness are in Brussels for the conference. (© PA)

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness were in Brussels on Thursday to speak about how money from the EU PEACE Programme has helped the peace process.

Almost €2bn has been provided between 1995 and 2013, they said.

The conference looked at how the example of NI and the Border Region of Ireland could be adapted to other parts of the EU where bridging differences is a challenge.

However, in light of the violence that has erupted on the streets following the removal of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall, the leaders stressed that progress has not been damaged by the events of recent weeks.

DUP leader Mr Robinson said: "Recent events have shown that reconciliation and peace are very much still work in progress.

"But the lesson today is the same as it has always been - violence obtains nothing except harm to the perpetrators and the communities they claim to represent.

The difficulties of recent weeks must not be allowed to take the shine from the success of the tens of thousands of projects which have brought communities together in Northern Ireland in a spirit of reconciliation, hope and confidence in our future.

Peter Robinson

"Active politics and rational dialogue offer the only way forward. This is the view shared by all of the political parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly. It is only through dialogue in the absence of violence that situations can be worked out."

Since its launch in 1995, the funding has been used to promote reconciliation by boosting numerous community groups, as well as projects such as the Peace Bridge in Londonderry.

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said PEACE has played a significant role on the road to reconciliation in the north.

"Recent events at home signal there is still work to be done," he said.

"We have come too far to lose momentum and the progress that we have made. We are committed to the rule of law and the primacy of the political process. We deplore violence on our streets and are determined that communication and reconciliation are central to our shared future."

The ministers spoke to an audience which included delegates from other divided regions looking for solutions - including the Balkans, Libya, the Basque region and Cyprus.

They highlighted that the PEACE programme has made a "tangible" contribution.

EU Regional Development Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who was in Derry in June 2011 for the opening of the Peace Bridge, told delegates he was "overwhelmed" by his trip.

He said he wanted those at conference to benefit from the achievements of Northern Ireland.

"I was overwhelmed by the people I met on that trip, people from both communities who bear the physical scars of the troubles," said Mr Hahn.

"People who a few years back wished each other only harm are now working hand in hand to build a new shared future. Their passionate commitment and sheer determination are truly laudable. This is why I wanted to bring their experience to Brussels.

"I want the widest possible audience for their achievements because I believe other parts of the world may be able to learn from their work".

© UTV News
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9 Comments
Tommy Atkins in London,England wrote (535 days ago):
Daniel in Newtownabey Wow Daniel Eureka! Now you realise that the "Country an d its leaders are a joke!" Daniel that country has always been a joke from its inception and will be to the grave. It always was artificial and so were the leaders who got themselves elected by playing up and feasting on the tribal hatreds
Politeness Patrol in Cyberspace wrote (535 days ago):
CAPS CAPS CAPS - stop shouting and have some manners!
lucylou in belfast wrote (537 days ago):
SPIN SPIN SPIN. THEIR SPEECH WRITERS MUST BE BLIND DEAF AND DAFT. BUT THEN IF YOU DONT ACKNOWLEDGE THE EXTENT OF A PROBLEM THEN YOU DONT HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT.ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A PART OF THE PROBLEM!!!!!OUR 'LEADERS NEED TO BE COLOUR BLIND WHERE ORANGE AND GREEN IS CONCERNED. BUT AS THE SONG GOES 'THAT'LL BE THE DAY'.
Anon O'Mous in The North wrote (537 days ago):
How do you get two communities who hate one another to live in peace? If there was a United Ireland in the morning, we would still have to live together. We'd still have to get up in the morning and go to work. (That is, those who are fortunate enough to have a job.) Some things would change but the insular minds of the Teddy Bear's head don't really want change. Who would pay €50 euro to see a doctor when you can go for free? Who would pay €500 euro to the Fire service if their chimney went ablaze when you can get it for free? The romantic ideal may be sweet for some but for the average Joe or Bill in Northern Ireland, when the time for change does come, will they be able to handle it or will they side with complacency? If we opened our eyes a little more we would see it's not 'us and them' anymore. Many different nationalities and denominations have come to our shores and want to make a life here. Yes many atrocities happened over the past 40 years but repeating history will not make the pain go away. Whether we are ruled by London or by Dublin, we will still have to live and work together. Simple as that!
Anne in Toronto wrote (537 days ago):
perhaps, but it most certainly has impacted tourism... Come on over to Toronto and speak to those (Non-Irish) thinking of visiting N. Ireland...anytime soon. This is the big year of the "Gathering" and trust me, the damage has already been done.Even if the demo's end tomorrow, it is still in the back of peoples mind. By the way, the "fleg" issue, pales in comparison to the attempted murder attacks on the police and prison forces (which are totally depended upon in this country) as a first line of democratic protection on the everyday person. I'm from N.Ireland and know the score, and it won't stop me from coming home, but forget all other tourists.
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