Belfast Mayor: Everybody must contribute to a peace with justice

 

It appears that the reconciliation process moves faster on the street than among politicians. Is it so?

The reconciliation between people is a great prize. I believe in reconciliation with those who have been injured, who lost loved ones, between victims and survivors. Martin McGuinness, one of the leaders of Sinn Fein, spoke two weeks ago in England about the suffering of innocent people because of the war in our country. But we also try to make peace with the people who suffered terribly because of the actions of the IRA. We don’t have to fight only for political demands, we must also try to reach out to those who suffered because of the armed campaign. If we Republicans want to be real peacemakers in Belfast, we must ensure that we help all the people who are suffering.

You have explained that in the next ten years you want to demolish 30 walls between the two communities in Belfast. How difficult it is to achieve this?

We need the consent and approval of the people who live on the other side of the “peace walls”. There are still a lot of work which need to be done, but I am convinced that when these walls will eventually fall Belfast will be a stronger city. My dream is to have a city without walls, and that means without physical walls but also without mental walls. We will see that we are not so different, we are the same despite our specific culture. So peace will be strengthened and we could plan new developments in the process.

What contradictions did you have to overcome in your daily political work? For example, you still retain the title of Lord Mayor, why?

We should be grateful that we have a republican perspective that does not discriminate against unionists. We must not throw all the unionist symbols into the bin. Furthermore, in Dublin (Republic of Ireland) they refer to their mayors as Lord Mayor, and also in Cork they use the same title. I don’t believe in these things, but these can serve to build a bridge to the Unionists. Although we take a different position out of respect, in my desk there are three photographs of the royal family. I left them where they were, but I have also placed the 1916 Declaration of the Republic of Ireland because it is important for me. In my day to day as mayor I prefer to spend my time listening to people who are more interested in seeing what I can do to get jobs or improve services.

How important has been the international collaboration in the process of solution?

It was a tremendous help. The United States collaborated with the peace process in Ireland and we still are in touch with the White House. The Irish-American relationship is indispensable, but also the one we have with the European Community. Since the beginning of the peace process the EU countries decided to allocate an item of billions of euros to help build peace. We are also fortunate that at crucial moments London, Dublin and Brussels were standing on the side of peace. We are grateful for that support.

 


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