We must have faith in our future
As the Haass talks move into their critical stage, the republican dissidents at the weekend underlined the urgency of finding a solution which will help to make violence totally redundant in Northern Ireland.
The Friday night bomb placed in the Cathedral Quarter during one of the busiest evenings of the year was an absolute disgrace. The cynicism and fanaticism of those who planned and planted the device is virtually beyond words, and totally beyond all understanding.
Such reckless and vile anti-social behaviour has been condemned by politicians and people from all sides. Those misguided people who planned such an atrocity received their answer the next night through the number of people who crowded back into the city.
As our report in today's paper shows, people have again demonstrated clearly that violence belongs to the past, and what they now want is security, jobs and a better future for everyone, including the children. Those terrorists who want to catapult us back to the dark past, cannot be allowed to succeed.
It is against this sombre background that the make-or-break Haass talks will enter into their final stages. People have made it clear that they want these talks to succeed, and that they wish to turn their backs on the worst of the past, including the violent incidents of recent days.
This is a huge task which faces the politicians and parties on all sides. It will not be easy to hammer out a solution that will stick, but given the alternative we have witnessed recently, there is simply no other way to face the future – and by doing so together.
Belfast and Northern Ireland have come a long way in a relatively short period. Of course there have been dark days generated by the furore over the union flag disputes and other issues. However, it is the ordinary people who offer the best hope for the future.
Time and again they have bounced back from adversity, and Belfast symbolises the new mood of optimism evident in so many places, despite all the setbacks. This week we can make history by moving further down the road to permanent peace. It is an opportunity the politicians must not and dare not squander. We all need to move forward together.