Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, reflects on Bill Flynn’s contribution to peace on the occasion of the Flax Trust Dinner in New York City.
Over the course of many years, many people have been given a tremendous amount of credit for being architects of the peace process and being involved in contributing to the peace process. Some of them are dubious claims but not in the case of Bill Flynn, and I want to make it quite clear in the course of this contribution that I regard Bill Flynn as one of the heroes of the peace process. He stood by the process through thick and thin, he is my friend, he is someone I have a tremendous amount of confidence in, he was there with us from the very beginning to the very end and it was a real joy having him in Parliament Buildings on that historic day of May 8th when the institutions of power sharing, the North South institutions and the British Irish institutions went live effectively for the first time.
I want to acknowledge and pay tribute to the work done by the Flax Trust in Belfast and indeed throughout the North. They have contributed wonderfully on a process of reconciliation through economic and social development. It is a registered charity. They do tremendous work and now, in terms of economic regeneration in the communities, are branching out into areas like the arts, education and business incubation. I think that’s very very laudable and very much complementary to the ongoing work of Government which we were involved in at this time. I’m a huge admirer of Sr. Mary Turley and Fr. Myles Kavanagh, people who have for all their adult lives worked for reconciliation and peace through providing employment and jobs and now their story goes from strength to strength. I’m very proud to contribute to what I hope will be a wonderful evening, I hope everybody will enjoy themselves and I think that also, given that we are speaking to an audience in the United States of America, it is important to stress that the United States of America and Irish America have played an incredibly important role in the development of the Irish peace process over the course of many years through President Clinton and President Bush and the various envoys that they sent to the North, not least Senator George Mitchell who was very much involved in the final days of negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement. Things here have taken off incredibly and we’re now four months into the establishment of these institutions, and the hope and optimism of the entire community has never been higher than it is at the moment. Ian Paisley and I, as I say, have been in government for nearly four months and we meet almost every day sometimes for three, four hours a day and there hasn’t been one angry word between the two of us.
I think he has played a remarkable role in contributing to this effort and I think that there is a very definite commitment from both himself and myself on behalf of the two largest parties in this administration to ensure that we go from strength to strength. Thank you for contributing to one of the most successful peace processes in the world today.
Go raibh Mait agaibh. ♦