The gun may have been removed from Irish politics, but bitter divisions of the past continue to dominate, Martin McGuinness has warned.
The Deputy First Minister was speaking as he delivered the annual oration at the City Cemetery in honour of the Republican patriot dead.
Following a parade to the cemetery attended by hundreds of local people, Mr McGuinness said he was “honoured” to give the main address and heartened to see so many gathered at the cemetery to pay their respects.
He said: “This year marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Charles English, the 40th anniversary of Jim Moyne and the 45th anniversary of Tommy McCool, Joe Coyle and Thomas Carlin, who of course died in a tragic explosion, which also claimed the lives of Tommy McCool’s young daughters Bernadette and Carol.
“We remember them all with a heavy heart but also a determination to continue to work tirelessly to build the kind of Ireland, which they – and generations of republicans before them – dreamed of. A free Ireland, a just Ireland, an Ireland where all are cherished equally, regardless of creed, colour or class. An Ireland that respects all of the traditions on this island and where our differences are celebrated not feared.”
Mr McGuinness said that Derry, like the rest of Ireland, was “now a very different place”, but warned there was still some way to travel.
There is now a political way forward. Thankfully the gun has been taken out of Irish politics.Martin McGuinness
“Thankfully the gun has been taken out of Irish politics. However, the bitter divisions of the past continue to dominate politics in this part of Ireland and that is why reconciliation must become the next phase of the peace process and our contribution, as Irish republicans, must be to embrace and build that process of healing and accommodation.”
He added: “The past cannot be changed or undone. Neither can the suffering, the hurt or the violence of the conflict, be disowned by Republicans or any other party to the conflict.
“Therefore, the challenge for all of us involved in the peace process – including the British Government - is to ensure that there can never be a repeat of what went before.
“That will require leadership and courage on all sides and I firmly believe that republicans have been and are willing to show that leadership.
“The flags flying above this graveyard are orange as well as green. Seeking unity among our people is at the core of our Irish republicanism and has been since it was first articulated by Theobald Wolfe Tone.
“Reconciliation, respect and accommodation – these are the right things to do. It is the republican thing to do.
“But if this process is to be successful it cannot be a one-way street. To be successful it must be reciprocated by political unionism and by the British state.
“There can be no hierarchy of victims, just as there is no single or agreed narrative of the conflict. Everyone involved needs to be addressed and dealt with on the basis of equality and parity of treatment.”
Unionist political leaders, he added, also need to recognise their responsibilities and the “enormously damaging role that the sectarian structure of this state played in generating decades of conflict”.
“The leadership of unionism has been slow to do so. In many ways they cling to a past that no longer exists – and in so doing encourage others to do the same,” Mr McGuinness warned.