Belfast Telegraph

This letter is about consolidating the peace and looking to brighter future

By Trevor Ringland

This place, north of the Irish border, has received a lot of bad press over recent years, too often because of developments in the political arena (or a lack of them) and also because of divided opinions about Brexit.

But today we witnessed an initiative from within civic unionism and beyond which called for a community of rights and responsibilities. What we witnessed today was civic leadership that stated clearly that it wanted to work across the constitutional divide.

The desire to open up a truly shared space in which to explore and debate was championed today.

It is frustrating to read and listen to so much negative commentary on a place with people who actually have many positive attributes which means that the challenge of civic leadership that emerged today is all the more important.

Most of us get on with our lives, while remaining hopeful that some day our politics will focus on playing a constructive role, rather than continuing old battles and hatreds that caused so much damage to our society in the past.

What we witnessed today is the gesture of greater co-operation between civic nationalism and civic unionism.

That is that the only acceptable method to pursue a constitutional preference is through taking responsibility for making this place work.

In order for that to happen we need to show that our ideas, commitments and hopes are the best option for all the people.

The things that divide people here are also quite often strengths.

We're part of the UK, but we share a beautiful island and countless links of culture, family and trade with the Republic of Ireland.

The relationships that draw us together are valuable and we should keep striving to get to know each other better, setting aside some of the convenient and simplistic stereotypes that are created to sew division.

Any issues that we have, we have to solve together.

In the future we need to value each other's children as if they are our own.

It is about consolidating the peace we now enjoy and bringing out the true character of all our people.

After all, to every problem we have our people have shown solutions that are too often ignored.

It is time that we appreciate them and give those striving to build relationships and break down barriers the recognition and support they deserve.

Twenty years after the Agreement the constructive voices in Northern Ireland are not being given proper attention.

If we want to solve the problems on the island then they should be listened to and this is why I added my name to that of over a hundred others who want to be constructive and work for the benefit of all.

Trevor Ringland is one of the signatories of the letter. He is a former rugby player and unionist politician

Belfast Telegraph

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