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North’s peace deal is now at a critical juncture, warns former ombudsman

Resource type: News

The Irish Times |

Original Source by DAN KEENAN and AMEL BRAHMI THE NORTHERN Ireland peace is at a critical juncture, the former police ombudsman Dame Nuala O’Loan has warned. “We have peace, but it is still fragile, because there are those who still hold weapons, and seek to undermine what has been achieved,” she said. Receiving an honorary degree from the University of Ulster yesterday Dame Nuala implored young graduates to work to underpin peace. “My message to you today is that the business of creating and maintaining peace and stability is the business of each citizen, as well as the business of politicians and peace negotiators,” she said. “The average peace deal lasts five years. The average conflict resumes after 15 years. It is important not to become complacent about peace,” she warned. “It is vital therefore that every effort is made to grow our economy, and to address the causes and impacts of marginalisation and deprivation in our society.” She said a way had to be found to “heal the wounds of the past”. Meanwhile at Queen’s University, the two clergymen who acted as independent witnesses to IRA decommissioning in 2005 also received honorary degrees. Fr Alex Reid and the Rev Harold Good received honorary doctorates in respect of “their commitment to ending political violence in Northern Ireland” and for their contribution to the peace process and services to the community. The Rev Harold Good said that if religion had played a big responsibility in the conflict, it should be part of the answer too. Professor of politics Richard English recognised their vital contribution to the development of peace in Northern Ireland and said that they had done it despite opposition from the clergy. Delivering the citation, he said: “There were some sceptical people in the clergy and Rev Ian Paisley being one of them. But they both have been lastingly and impressively committed to ending political violence in Northern Ireland.” Fr Reid, a Redemptorist priest at the Marianella community in Dublin and formerly of the Clonard monastery in west Belfast, said it was a special occasion which will give him encouragement. “Getting an award like this for peace-making gives you more confidence in what you do,” he said. The Rev Good, a former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, said: “I think about the large number of people seen and unseen who have been working towards the peace process. I am conscious of them.” Prof English said the Rev Good contributed to reconciliation between the divided communities of Northern Ireland. Regarding Fr Reid, Prof English said he helped facilitate the process of shifting militant republicans from their “armed struggle” towards more peaceful politics. © 2008 The Irish Times

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