Belfast Telegraph

Leaders can't let peace drift

By Peter Osborne

We have come a long way in the last two decades, manifested clearly by the recent visit of the Irish president to London.

It was a clear statement by the president and the Queen that both governments would never let relations between people on these islands sour again. But building reconciliation and peace in Northern Ireland impacts on those relationships.

That is why it is urgent that the governments again put their shoulders to the wheel.

As a priority at the core of peace-building on and across these islands, they need urgently to redouble their commitment to reconciliation.

The ambition of all in government needs to match the ambition of civil society for peace and reconciliation. We own this peace process and civil society has a key role in delivering reconciliation.

That is why the two governments must engage proactively to resolve outstanding issues, including those raised as part of the Panel of Parties process.

Also locally, helped by the governments as guardians of the 1998 and subsequent agreements, we must develop a long-term, ambitious peace plan that matches the ambitions of civil society, with systemic approaches to relationship-building. It needs structures for supporting and resourcing reconciliation work that are strong and robust.

As some of those with much to gain or lose from the state of relations on these islands, the governments must ensure that structures supporting peace-building and reconciliation are able to deliver what civil society wants – an enduring peace and a better future for all, built on good relations for people not just in Northern Ireland, but across these islands.

We have come a long way and much progress has been made, but there is no room for complacency. The governments must reflect again on the importance of their role.

With further drift, progress could be undone.

It will be a tragedy if this happens because we were not adequately supported to be sufficiently ambitious.

  • Peter Osborne is chairman of the Community Relations Council

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