Derry is an inspiration to people around the world, the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, told a cross-community peace building event in the city last night.
In one of her final official engagements in the North as President, Mrs. McAleese addressed the first-ever ‘Conversations Across the Walls’ meeting at First Derry Presbyterian Church on Magazine Street.
The brainchild of local Presbyterian minister Dr. David Latimer, the initiative aims to bring Catholics and Protestants together to “listen to each other”.
President McAleese told a large audience that “the people of Derry, on all sides, have given inspiring example and have courageously led the way from mutually enslaving recrimination to mutually empowering reconciliation”.
First Derry Church, she said, represented a “powerful statement of intent” that “new, healthier relationships are being forged in Derry”.
She added: “Beautiful though Derry is, this is no image-enhanced or computer generated virtual city. This is a lived-in place, where individuals have had to dig deep for the strength, the wisdom and the courage to begin again.”
“When [City of Culture] celebrations start in 2013, Derry will have an enviable and unprecedented opportunity to showcase the very best of what it can accomplish when its people work together towards a noble, a humanly uplifting common purpose.”
Derry, she added, was a place people “look to for inspiration and for creativity as we struggle to break old habits and unlearn old redundant ways of looking at the world and at each other”.
And, in a message directed at dissident republican groups, the President said: “They have disrupted Derry in ways we had hoped were long past and their continued resistance to the good future we are building confers on us a responsibility not alone to be wary of the sting in the tail of the dying culture of paramilitarism, but to ensure we do our utmost to prove that our way is best in every way - that it is robust, that we are united, that we are not to be turned from the path of peace.”