Respect the key to future success
Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has told students that respect is the key to securing a society here where racism and sectarianism are things of the past.
Speaking at an awards giving ceremony at Holy Trinity College in Cookstown, the deputy First Minister said:
"Respect takes many forms and facets. Respect for authority, for other people, for property, for difference for life and in some ways most importantly for oneself," he said.
Mr McGuinness said the knife point attack on two Cookstown clerics had graphically illustrated the results of a lack of respect.
"Not far from where I stand tonight two of the most respected members of our community were subjected to a horrendous ordeal when they were robbed at knifepoint. Those who carried out that outrage have nothing to offer our society," he said.
Referring to the Omagh house fire Mr McGuinness said it provided examples of people and acts of bravery which deserved the highest of respect.
"Amid all the horror and despair at Omagh I was deeply moved by the courage and spirit of so many people caught up in those terrible circumstances. People like the two young men who risked life and limb to try and save people from the inferno.
"The teachers who threw a protective arm around the bewildered schoolchildren. The families and community who banded together and especially the emergency services who fought valiantly to save lives.
"All those people showed the real meaning of respect and in turn are worthy of our respect," he added.
Mr McGuinness went on to say that the concept of respect was at the very core of the political agreements.
"Mutual respect has brought us to this point in our history and has seen us reach a political accommodation which has confounded the cynics and amazed the world.
"Respect is equally important in all aspects of life not least for each of us in our personal lives and for you also as you begin to make your way in the world.
"Respect for each other, respect for our different traditions, our cultures, our heritage, our aspirations, our environment and our rights are key foundations for a society which serves all our people and builds a diverse and inclusive society," he continued.
When it came to respect for different cultures the Minister said our increasingly multi-cultural society was one that should be celebrated and the benefits it offered harnessed.
"The Executive has made it a major priority to underline the richness and benefits which come from people from all parts of the world coming to join us.
"I suppose in years gone by Holy Trinity, like most other schools here, would have considered diversity to mean drawing pupils from as far apart as the mountains of Pomeroy to the shores of Lough Neagh and dare I say it even a few parts of Derry.
"Now, however, diversity sees us joined by students from Portugal, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. They bring with them their talents, their cultures and their traditions, to enrich us and make us better as a society and as people." ENDS