The continued existence of sectarianism, of peace walls and of deep communal divisions in parts of the North is an affront to democracy and to a civilised society. It defies belief that this is continuing in the year 2009. It must be energetically tackled and confronted by political leaders and by the wider community. The Irish Government is more than willing to play our part, as indeed we try to do in all our work on a daily basis.
I am firmly of the view that over a decade on from the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland needs to move proactively to reach the goal of a shared future. People from all communities, and especially those who have been marginalised in the past, need to see hope and opportunity for their children. We all know that poverty and hopelessness provide a fertile ground for disaffection and alienation.
At a time of economic crisis across the world, to which the North cannot be immune, we cannot allow old hatreds to fester and renew themselves. The task of reconciliation and of ending sectarianism will not be easy. It will take time and effort, and it will be a long road, but it is vital for the future of everyone on this island.
And we’ve seen the “face of bigotry, sectarianism and intolerance” recently. Of course, his predecessor had some thoughts on that too, regardless of what others may say.. Although some won’t be here to worry about it. But how is that shared future progressing anyway?