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deputy First Minister attends major conference on Heritage and Identity

15 November, 2007

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told a major conference in Belfast that we need to move away from seeing our heritage as being divisive to widening its appeal so that many people can enjoy and appreciate it.

The Minister made the comments during a keynote speech on heritage and identity at a Heritage Lottery Fund event in Odyssey.

He said:

"Heritage is a vital part of how people perceive themselves and others. It contributes to our sense of belonging to society and our sense of pride in where we live.

"It is an essential component in enhancing the quality of life for the people of all communities. As we emerge from troubled times with a vision of a peaceful, prosperous, inclusive and creative society our heritage has an important role to play."

The Minister told guests, including Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor and poet Michael Longley, that our heritage had often been seen as divisive.

"It has been perceived as a symbol of one side, political order or class. How it should be valued and protected has therefore also on occasion proved controversial.

"The challenge now is how to widen the appeal to audiences and ensure that as many people as possible enjoy and appreciate our heritage." ENDS

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