Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

An historic example of courage

Peace-building in places emerging from conflict is, as people here are discovering, both fragile and vulnerable.

Attempts to harmonise different aims are proving to be difficult, leading many to conclude peaceful co-existence is little other than a pipe-dream.

It has to be appreciated, though, how peace-building takes a long time and requires far more effort than politicians' signatures on a treaty.

As Dr Richard Haass says: "It is premature to put Northern Ireland into the out-box of problems solved."

In spite of dark clouds gathering over Stormont, obscuring any sighting of a star of hope, it's worth recalling words spoken by Britain's wartime premier Winston Churchill: "Success is not final and failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

Courage is something both the First and Deputy First Ministers have intermittently demonstrated in the past.

On each occasion, new life has been breathed into the peace process.

The decision by Martin McGuinness to attend last night's State banquet in Windsor Castle hosted by the Queen during the visit by President Michael D Higgins to the UK, has the potential to be transformational.

The symbolic handshake between Martin and the Monarch in 2012 produced more than a little surprise, sending ripples of hope across the entire island.

The willingness of both Martin McGuinness, former IRA leader, and the Queen, a victim of IRA terrorism, to dine together in the royal residence at Windsor is momentous.

Two very different people deciding to "walk the talk" is remarkable by any standards.

Somewhere, out at the edges, the night is turning, which should incentivise us to do what deep in our hearts we know needs to be done, and that's to keep moving forward together.

May God bless both of them and use their examples of courage and compassion to give peace that can be enjoyed by people of all creeds and cultures – not just in our time, but for all-time.

Dr David Latimer is minister of First Derry Presbyterian Church

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