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McGuinness – Leadership key to lasting peace

22 May, 2008

The Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA has told the international Mitchell Conference on conflict resolution that strong leadership is the key to building lasting peace.

Mr McGuinness officially opened the two-day conference, named after Senator George Mitchell, at Queen's University Belfast, which has as its theme, "Moving on from Conflict: Lessons from Northern Ireland."

The deputy First Minister said:

"I am convinced that strong leadership is the key not only to the progress we have made, but is the most important element in resolving conflict, in whatever region it may occur.

"Resolving conflict requires strong leaders who are prepared to take risks, to step forward and to say another way is possible. I believe that we have been fortunate that such leaders existed here.

"I want to express my thanks to the many leaders we see here today for the contributions they have made to our process. Those working at interfaces - much of this work carried out by volunteers, to others who work in the wider field of community relations, politicians from here and from further shores. I recognise your efforts and the value of the work you do.

"This conference can play a crucial role in enabling others to learn from our experiences here. In every society, how people live together is a major challenge to governments and individuals. In a society moving out of conflict the challenge is all the greater."

Mr McGuinness said he hoped other parts of a troubled world could glean something by putting the experience of moving on from conflict here under the microscope.

"This conference is not about us telling others what they should do - peace-building is not a one-size-fits-all model. We have not 'cornered the market'. We have walked a difficult path and what we will do is tell you about our journey.

"We have huge potential to help other societies working towards a resolution of conflict and we are more than willing to help, whilst we continue to work out our own future. The challenge of our time is how we can live together as ourselves.

"Much progress has been achieved since we entered a new political era last May. We have continued to see unparalleled change, opportunities to build trust and to deliver on our commitments," the deputy First Minister said.

"The partnership which Ian Paisley and I have forged, and the working 4-party Executive, has been essential to giving the process the type of start it urgently required.

"Of course we have our challenges on important issues but the crucial thing is we are all, locally elected politicians, sitting down together around the Executive table facing up to them.

"While we are experiencing a momentous time of positive change, a positive transformation and a moving of minds, we cannot become complacent or take what we have for granted.

"In the last year much work has been done which has confounded critics and astounded the sceptics. But we must continue to overcome the difficulties.

"The people of Ireland, both north and south, have chosen the right path and the onus is on all of us to make it a reality, that surely is a challenge for all of us," added Mr McGuinness.


  1. The conference is organised by Queen's University Belfast and the Georgetown University in Washington DC, in collaboration with Co-operation Ireland.
  2. It brings together an international audience of approximately 400 people including political leaders, academics, lawyers and community workers to draw on the experiences here, and consider how this can contribute to the global debate on conflict resolution.

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