Martin McGuinness says that the brighter days for Derry he predicted years ago in the Journal have arrived with the opening of the city’s new Peace Bridge.
Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness and First Minister Peter Robinson set foot onto the bridge at the same time during yesterday’s opening ceremony.
“I was here participating in digging the sod for the bridge on a very wintery day on a January morning last year,” he said.
“To come back here today on a much better day and see all the citizens of this city here looking at this magnificent, iconic bridge is a declaration of intent of all the people of this city.
“I remember a couple of years ago predicting to the Journal that these days were lying ahead of us and now we are seeing the beginning of what is a whole new opportunity for this city.”
Mr Robinson said, after walking across the bridge from the West bank to Ebrington, he was heartened by the spirit of the people in Derry.
“People recognise it as a historic city, but also one in which they are very much looking to the future,” he said.
“Here they have a bridge that really is something special, but it is not standing on its own because there is so much else happening in and around the city.
“What is happening here at the Ebrington Barracks site is tremendously exciting.
“For the first time in 170 years there will be shared public space and all of these things are good for the city.”
Mr McGuinness said that he and the First Minister had discussed who stepped onto the bridge first before yesterday’s ceremony.
“It could have been very important because everyone remembers the controversy around Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary about who was first to set foot on Everest first,” he said.
“Peter and I had this discussion about who would set foot on the bridge first and I am happy to say that we did it together.”
The Deputy First Minister said that the bridge opening heralded a new start for the city.
“Standing here today looking at the curvature of the bridge, it’s just such a beautiful object in my opinion,” he said.
“Obviously it allows people to travel back and forwards across the river, but it also allows them to see the city from a whole new perspective.
“This is a bright brand new day for the city and hopefully there will be many more of them in the future.
“When you look at what is happening with the City of Culture and all of the other things that are going to happen, it is a very exciting time for Derry and the people of this city.”