Belfast Telegraph

It is time for the Labour Party to stand together with Northern Ireland

By Vernon Coaker

My message to the Labour Party conference today is simple: the job is not finished in Northern Ireland.

We in Westminster must show we are committed about building a shared future with peace, progress and prosperity at its core.

Earlier this year, I managed to meet some students at Queen's University in Belfast. These young people were not untouched by sectarianism.

I was surprised to hear from one very articulate student that the first time she had met someone from "the other side" in any real sense was actually at university.

We have a duty to ensure that future 18, 19 and 20-year-olds don't have to leave home to meet their neighbour.

But we can't just wish for things to change.

We have to work for it.

It has been a bad few months and confidence in the ability of politicians to work together has been shaken.

Sometimes, we can be too quick – in our eagerness to see more progress – to be critical.

But the talks chaired by Richard Haass offer this country a real opportunity to make progress.

That's why I think that both the British and Irish governments should be involved. Because we achieve most when we involve many.

That has been the way in which we've been able to change Northern Ireland for the better in the last 20 years.

And that's how we will build peace, progress and prosperity in the next 20.

Northern Ireland has changed for the better. We should be proud of that.

It is a great place to live, work and visit. And it has a bright future.

We owe it to all of the people of Northern Ireland to make sure that everyone – from whatever community and wherever they are – can share in that bright future together.

That's why I say: now is not the time to walk away from Northern Ireland.

It is the time to stand together with Northern Ireland.


Vernon Coaker MP is Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

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