Belfast Telegraph

Small step on road to true peace for us

By Brian Rowan

The lunchtime event in the Linenhall Library yesterday spoke volumes about how this place has changed and is changing. Republicans Martin McGuinness, Michelle O'Neill and Declan Kearney shared the stage with former Methodist President Dr Heather Morris.

The event was to mark the publication of a book, Uncomfortable Conversations - an initiative for dialogue towards reconciliation.

It pulls together a series of articles published in the newspaper An Phoblacht; articles written not just by republicans, but others.

Lord John Alderdice, Dawn Purvis, Dr Morris, Baroness May Blood, Dr David Latimer and a number of academics are among the contributors.

And yesterday, republicans spoke beyond their community on the need for reconciliation to become the next phase of the peace process.

The room listened. A room that included the former loyalist prisoner and south Belfast UPRG representative, Colin Halliday.

Alan McBride was also there. His wife and father-in-law were among those buried in the rubble and the slaughter of the IRA Shankill bomb.

And, in the rows of seats, sat former Presbyterian Moderator John Dunlop, another former Methodist President, Harold Good, former Parades Commission chairman Peter Osborne, Kate Turner of the Healing Through Remembering project, and former NIO official Chris McCabe.

Dr Morris stressed that the book cannot be a full stop, but, rather, something that "sparks more conversations". The dream, she said, was about "a future that does not echo the past".

Dr Morris introduced herself to Martin McGuinness in a coffee shop in south Belfast on the morning the Deputy First Minister first met the Queen. Yesterday, McGuinness described that historic royal meeting as "the biggest act of public reconciliation" he has been involved in.

Speaking afterwards, Colin Halliday said loyalists had also been involved in similar, difficult dialogue. "What we need to do is somehow take this forward," he said.

And that is the challenge: to take yesterday's event out of the room and on to a bigger stage.

  • Brian Rowan is a writer and commentator on security issues

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