'˜Leave dusty soils of the past behind'

A Derry clergyman has warned there's nothing to be gained by perpetually dwelling on the '˜dusty soils of the past,' while urging political leaders to compromise for the sake of the hard won peace tentatively enjoyed here over the past two decades.

Twelve years to the day since the IRA finally announced its units were dumping arms and the war was over, Rev. David Latimer, Minister of First Derry Presbyterian Church, has issued an extraordinary plea for those in positions of influence to give peace a chance.

Rev. Latimer, who has pastored at First Derry, overlooking the predominantely nationalist and republican Bogside, for almost three decades, has asked people to come together for the sake of peace.

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“Now is time for Catholics and Protestants, Nationalists and Unionists, Loyalists and Republicans to leave behind the dusty soils of the past, to go all out to bridge the gaps that prevent us from living better together and generate a eagerness to keep on building peace,” he writes in an opinion piece in the ‘Journal’ this morning.

“A strong case can be framed for our MLAs to work together to identify common ground between them and to work for the common good rather than sectional interests,” he adds.

The remarkable pastor, who served as a British Army chaplain in Helmand though opposed to the US-led war in Afghanistan, and over the years struck up a long-lasting friendship with the late Sinn Féin and former IRA leader Martin McGuinness, emphasised the continuing fragility of the peace process.

Peace, he warned, should not be taken for granted.

“The quite heroic endeavours of pivotal political figures who have, during their watch, strenuously laboured to bring about an unbelievable miracle and deliver a peace process, must not be lost,” he states.

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Rev. Latimer said he took inspiration from the example of the late Patricia Knatchbull who, in 1979, lost both her father and her son when the IRA blew up the boat on which they had been sailing off County Sligo.

Quizzed on her view of the Queen shaking hands with Martin McGuinness, Countess Mountbatten said: ‘She was absolutely right. I very much approve of anything that will bring about peace.’