Peace has transformed Belfast: McCann and Bell
Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister
27 October 2014
Junior Ministers Jennifer McCann and Jonathan Bell have welcomed an international forum on reconciliation in divided societies to Belfast.
The Forum for Cities in Transition is holding a four-day gathering in the city, bringing together delegates from contested cities from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa to debate and learn from challenges and successes under the theme ‘Promoting Reconciliation through Reconciliation’.
Addressing the opening session, Junior Minister Jennifer McCann said: “That this gathering is being held in Belfast is an endorsement of what has already been achieved here in moving away from conflict to a united society. The Executive has prioritised building a strong and shared community in the Programme for Government. The Together: Building a United Community Strategy is driving forward work across departments to deliver progress on the ground in conjunction with individuals and groups at a local level.”
“The journey to peace takes a lot of hard work, dialogue and compromise. Belfast and the North have come a long way in recent years and have been transformed in many respects. There are many signs of progress, such as the level of inward investment and tourism numbers. While every conflict is different, and there is still much to be achieved here, I am sure the delegates will learn much from Belfast over the coming days.”
Welcoming the Forum Junior Minister Jonathan Bell commented: “At one time Northern Ireland was regarded as a place of conflict and division but we have made huge strides over the recent past, creating a place that is great to live, work and invest in.
“The Executive will continue to work hard to build a united and shared community and to create a Northern Ireland where divisions are eradicated. Interventions such as the removal of peace walls, increased shared neighbourhoods, cross community sports activities and the integrated and shared education of our children and young people, are all ways that we can build a united community. I hope that the delegates can learn from our experience to date and from our longer term plans.”
Up to 100 delegates from 14 cities including Baghdad, Haifa, Jerusalem, Mostar, Sarajevo and Tripoli will be taking part in the event. The programme includes visits across the city as well as a mixture of panel sessions and workshops.
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