A lasting peace yet to be realised, but maybe Nelson Mandela can inspire us
The Good Friday Agreement suggested that a "true and lasting memorial to those that suffered in the Troubles would be a peaceful and just society".
I can remember the optimism that surrounded the signing of the Agreement – I was at Stormont that night and the scenes were truly historic. I dared to dream that the Troubles were over and we were moving into a new, better future, a shared future in which "the foot you kicked with" mattered little.
Fast-forward 15 years and, I have to say, the dream has yet to be realised.
Of course, there have been positive developments. There have been changes to policing, decommissioning is no longer an issue, we have Sinn Fein sharing power with the DUP, and local politicians making decisions on local issues.
All of that is to the good, but it still falls short. In the aftermath of the death of Nelson Mandela, perhaps it's time to take a lesson from the life he lived. The great man once said: 'If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy, then he becomes your partner."
Perhaps that's what is missing from the DUP/Sinn Fein coalition. Yes, they are sharing power, but could you consider it a partnership?
I know that can be a tall order given the history of this place, but it wasn't any easier for Mandela. The question I would like to pose to our politicians is this – what can you do that would help to build a positive relationship with the other?
In this season of goodwill and in the shadow of the Haass talks, I would like to suggest one solution to the flags issue. As long as Northern Ireland remains within the UK, the Union flag should continue to fly from Government buildings on designated days, but in an attempt to reach out to those who have no affinity with the UK, why not fly the Irish flag alongside the Union flag on certain days that have meaning for them? Perhaps this small step or giant stride (depending on where you are in that continuum) could pave the way for other gestures to be made?
Now, in my mind, it's that kind of reaching out that I envisaged to be central to a "peaceful and just society".
Alan McBridelost his wife Sharon and father-in-law John Frizzell in the 1993 Shankill bombing