Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Sinn Fein's reconciliation event at Westminster more than a gesture, says Lord Alderdice

Former IMC commissioner Lord John Alderdice has described Sinn Fein’s decision to host a reconciliation event at Westminster tonight as “more than a gesture”.

The former Alliance Party leader and Assembly Speaker has been engaged with others from the Protestant community |in a private dialogue with republicans.

And this evening he will join Sinn Fein national chair Declan Kearney on the panel for the Westminster event.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Lord Alderdice said: “Bringing the cycle of violence to a close required us to move into relatively uncharted political territory.

“It was risky, and we did not always get it right.

“At the start I was not even always sure that we were on the right track.

“But the search for peace was driven by a moral imperative,” he continued.

“I have similar anxieties about this process,” Lord Alderdice told the Belfast Telegraph.

“As a psychiatrist, I know that dealing with the painful legacy of the past is treading on uncertain and dangerous psychological ground.

“But I also know that simply hoping the passage of time will |resolve things has not worked for individual victims or for the community as a whole.

“We must keep trying to work to find a way forward,” he said.

This latest initiative on |reconciliation began over a year ago in a speech Declan Kearney made to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Belfast.

And those private talks with people from the Protestant community started after an article he wrote for the republican newspaper An Phoblacht in March.

This evening Declan Kearney will deliver a keynote address and then join Lord Alderdice, Lord Glentoran and former NIO minister Baroness Angela Smith in a panel discussion.

The event is being chaired by the Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey.

However, on the huge issues of reconciliation and addressing the past, Lord Alderdice is cautioning that this will take time.

“This evening’s session is |another tentative step along that road, and the fact that Sinn Fein is choosing to have it at |Westminster is more than a gesture, it is an element of that uncomfortable path of engagement,” he said.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary of State Lord John Reid is expected to attend the event as is the actor Adrian Dunbar.

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