Today an important symbolic event takes place in Belfast when a peace gate is opened at an interface in the north of the city.
The new entrance will allow local |residents access to both parts of Alexandra Park — possibly the only recreation space in |Europe to be divided by a so-called peace wall. It is a small movement towards tackling the problems of division in our society, and a signal that the |climate here is changing, even if that change |sometimes seems glacial in its slowness.
For the opening comes in the wake of two other events which dominated the news agenda |yesterday.
One was the announcement that prominent |Ulster Unionists Tom Elliott, the party leader, and Danny Kennedy, the DRD Minister, face |disciplinary action from the Orange Order for |attending the funeral mass of murdered Catholic police officer, Ronan Kerr.
The other was the comment by SDLP MLA Alban Maginnis, an urbane and sophisticated politician, that a planned march through Belfast city centre by soldiers returning from Afghanistan would have been too contentious. The soldiers will now take part in a ceremony at the Kings Hall.
These two events are throwbacks to a past which we had all hoped was being consigned to history. It is encouraging that many Orangemen are now |calling for a repeal — or at least clarification — of the ban on members attending Catholic |ceremonies. Certainly to attempt to punish |members for paying respects to a murdered |policeman is insanity. And Mr Maginnis should move on from criticising past deeds of the Army and recognise the changed climate.
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have been in the US attempting to woo investors to come to Northern Ireland.
If a potential investor had been listening to the news in Belfast yesterday he might have wondered just how far we have progressed in our quest to create a new Northern Ireland. His one glimmer of hope would have been the news of the peace gate, a worthy initiative.