Editor's Viewpoint: A symbol of hope ... but still work to do
The opening of the new Peace Bridge in Londonderry/Derry is a symbol of better times in a city that has experienced too many years of community division and conflict.
The city has been for so long a kind of litmus test of history, ranging from the turbulent end of the 17th century to the beginning of the civil rights marches in the Sixties, and the onslaught of the Troubles.
Following the Good Friday Agreement and the slow progress of the peace process, Derry has reflected the improvements in the local political landscape. Despite the setbacks, both main communities have shown a great pride in their city, and this is increasingly coming to the fore.
The 2013 year as the UK City of Culture will enable people rom all sides to showcase the remarkable talent in this city, just as the new Peace Bridge will show the world that important connections can be made not only across the river but also between communities.
Much remains to be done, but there is hope in the air in Londonderry/Derry and the progress in this historic and symbolic city augurs well for the province at large, and also these islands.
However it would be unwise to paint too rosy a picture of community relations within Northern Ireland. These have improved in recent years, but there is still a long shared road to be travelled.
The disgraceful rioting in east Belfast last week showed the degree of sectarianism that is simmering beneath the surface. This is one dimension to life here that could still jeopardise the progress that has been made so far.
Quite simply the Stormont politicians and the Executive could and should do much more to tackle sectarianism and to make this much more of a major priority. There is no point in trying to sell the good image of the province, while the community poison of sectarian division remains to threaten all our futures. It should be rooted out, once and for all, at whatever the cost.