Minister Charlie Flanagan – 18/11/15
Good afternoon Mayor, Councillors, distinguished guests.
It is a real pleasure to be here in this great city.
It has taken me somewhat longer than I had anticipated to come here, but you may have noticed that I have been rather unavoidedly detained in Stormont House for much of the past year or so.
Yesterday’s conclusion of talks in Stormont House has now freed me to travel, meet and listen to people across the North.
I am delighted that Derry is my first port of call – I thought it essential that my first visit after those talks ended should be here.
Here because Derry has become a symbol of what is possible in Northern Ireland, a city once divided and destroyed which has now become, in the words of the playwright Brian Friel, “…opulent with tomorrows.”
For me, for so many, those tomorrows became today on that sunny afternoon of 15 June 2010, when the Saville report was published.
The fantastic City of Culture year in 2013 gave a new optimism, which has been built upon since, including through the MTV Crash and Club MTV events.
Culture Tech weeks bring an energy to the city and shows the world what Digital Derry has to offer: it is a wonderful advertisement for the innovation and openness which characterises this city.
The Derry model of peaceful co-existence is one which other parts of Northern Ireland envy. I would like to pay tribute to each of you here in this room for your ongoing work, in public and in private, in building and maintaining the unity of purpose that makes this city work. It is not easy. Your efforts are often unseen. But your work, together and individually, is important and it is enduring. Keep it up.
It is my earnest wish that yesterday’s agreement will see the same unity of purpose in Stormont, allowing society here to consolidate the peace, to increase prosperity, and to build reconciliation.
I believe that the building blocks are in place.
I believe that those elected to Stormont want to build that peaceful, prosperous and reconciled society.
I believe that the people want such a society, for themselves, for their grandchildren.
If this is to be achieved, peace, prosperity and reconciliation must touch the lives of everyone in the north of Ireland, east and west of the river Bann.
To help achieve that prosperity, my Government has reaffirmed its support for the A5 road, with a view to the first phase from Newbuildings to Strabane commencing in 2017 – providing the necessary planning issues in this jurisdiction are addressed. I have no doubt that these will be resolved, to the satisfaction of everyone in this room.
My Government has decided to provide €2.5 million to support the regional development work of the North West Gateway Initiative, involving Donegal County Council and your new Derry City and Strabane District Council. This is to be complemented by matching funding from the Northern Ireland Executive.
I am also delighted that tomorrow one of the four regional meetings of the Global Irish Economic Forum will take place here in Derry, at Magee. This will see key people from this island, and with connections to this island, come here, build links and see how they might contribute to regional economic development here in the North West.
I have no doubt that they will be impressed by what they see: from large world class companies like Seagate to the dynamism of Magee and the entrepreneurship which informs the work of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.
But it is not enough that the members of the Global Network leave here impressed. I know that they will leave here wanting to make their contribution. I look forward to hearing their views when I meet them at the Forum when it convenes later this week in Dublin and expect that their findings here will influence our broader discussion.
Of course, building prosperity is easiest done in a context of stability and reconciliation.
The unity of purpose shown by those in leadership positions here shows the way.
But building a reconciled society is slow work. There is no road map. It cannot be forced. It requires the efforts of many. It requires patience and understanding, tolerance and forbearance.
It requires institutions.
This morning I participated in the launch of the new strategic plan of the International Fund for Ireland. The IFI will be thirty years old next year. It has made a magnificent contribution to reconciliation, through its work in funding buildings, creating jobs, building communities and breaking down barriers. This next strategic plan is funded in part by a contribution of €5 million from the Irish Government, so that that work can continue.
Reconciliation requires people.
People like everyone here in this room today.
People who take risks for peace.
People who need support.
People who are supported.
I look forward to visiting this afternoon the Museum of Free Derry and the Siege Museum, two different narratives about this city. What unites these initiatives is the will to reconcile, to work together, to build for the future. I am proud to support both Museums. I am pleased to see them supported, by visitors from Derry and elsewhere in Northern Ireland, from the rest of Ireland, and from abroad.
But building reconciliation is not always about tolerance and forbearance. Sometimes to move forward we must challenge those who want to pull us back.
I challenge those in this city who abuse our Irish flag, our nation, our Irish identity, to threaten other Irishmen and women. The PSNI is my police service. It is your police service. The two police services on our island work together as one. Their thin line protects and serves everyone in our community. Those who attack them attack us all.
And not just police.
We have had attacks on people, on property. In recent months, there have been pipe bombs, petrol bombs, under-car bombs, bomb threats. There have been assaults.
And for what?
I mentioned earlier the publication of the Saville report, a wonderful day in this city’s history.
I am conscious, though, that behind that report were many families, many family members, who remain bereaved. A report did not fill their loss.
I remember too all those families who have never had a report about the deaths of their loved ones.
I think of their tears. I think of fathers unknown, of grandchildren unborn.
And I ask how could any decent Irish person chose to visit that sorrow on another?
Seamus Deane wrote of a terrible deed done in the past ” €¦which spreads down the generations like a shout down the tunnel that echoes and echoes and never really stops €¦”.
But it is time to stop. No more terrible deeds.
Let us build our democracy.
Let us unlock the North West.
Let us embed our peace.
Let us celebrate the possibilities which living together on this island gives us.
We have the opportunity. Let’s grasp it.
18 NOVEMBER 2015