Handshake step towards reconciliation: McGuinness

MID ULSTER MP Martin McGuinness says his meeting this week with the Queen came about as a result of decades of work constructing the Irish Peace Process involving very many people in very many roles.

“And I wish to pay tribute to all of those from Presidents, to Taoisaigh to Prime Ministers, from politicians to church and community leaders and ordinary people up and down Ireland who placed building a new future ahead of fighting old battles,” he said at a Sinn Fein event in London last night.

“Britain’s involvement in Irish affairs has been marked by colonialism, plantation, division and partition. It has been bad for Ireland and her people and bad for Britain and her people.

“We have been left to deal with that legacy. It is a legacy which has contaminated normal politics and normal relations between our islands for generations. It gave rise to the conditions which fostered inequality, division and conflict. Second class citizenship for nationalists in the North was underwritten by successive British governments.

“For 40 years my life has been about changing all of that. Massive progress has been made. We have transformed society in the north. But that transformation has come at a heavy price on all sides. Over 3,000 people lost their lives in the course of the conflict. Many more suffered injury and loss. Every single violent act was evidence of a failure of politics and a failure of British policy in Ireland.

“We are emerging from a conflict that resulted in lives being lost and families being devastated. I genuinely regret every single life that was lost during that conflict and today I want every family who lost a loved one to know that your pain is not being ignored and I am willing to work with others to finding a way to deal with our past so that we can complete our journey to true reconciliation.

“I hear some commentators talk about the Good Friday Agreement being reached back in 1998 and following a successful completion of an Assembly mandate that the Peace Process has come to a conclusion. I do not share this view, it is wrong and it is a mistake. The task of building National Reconciliation is as much a part of the Peace Process as anything that has gone before.

“I am up for the challenge and I welcome the opportunity for us to have a public conversation about how we deal with our past, that conversation will be not easy and the challenges will be great. However, I believe that with dialogue and trust we can develop a process that all of us can support and accept.

“Already we as a party have made a number of significant and important moves in recent months to develop such a process. Under the direction of our party Chair Declan Kearney we have been involved in a serious of outreach meetings with unionists. This has been a highly productive dialogue and I commend the two recent resolutions passed by the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches encouraging this work. But National reconciliation will not be built on a shaky foundation of people questioning the legitimacy of positions adopted over the course of the conflict or by attempts to demean or denigrate those who were involved in it.

National reconciliation will be built on the firm foundation of mutual respect and decisive actions. That is the context within which I met Queen Elizabeth this week.”