Northern Ireland

Bertie Ahern joins calls to put reconciliation at centre of Stormont Programme for Government

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is to receive a honorary doctorate from Dublin City University next month. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has joined calls for reconciliation to be placed at the centre of the Stormont programme for government. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has added his name to a peace activist statement calling on the restored Stormont Executive to put reconciliation at the forefront of its programme for government.

Activists from the Peace Summit Partnership, the Peace Guardians Network and the Youth Network for Peace signed the statement demanding that the “unfinished business” of the Good Friday Agreement be completed by the restored Executive.

The statement, issued on Wednesday, is signed by the John and Pat Hume Foundation (including its chairwoman, Dawn Purvis and secretary, Tim Attwood) as well as academics and community and inclusivity groups.

Among the “peace guardians” who signed the statement are Mr Ahern and former Policing Board vice chairman Denis Bradley. Other signatories include Northern Ireland’s first human rights’ commissioner Brice Dickson and Irish language activist Linda Ervine.

Welcoming the return of the Executive, the activists said it was now of paramount importance that peace and reconciliation be placed at forefront of its agenda.

“The absence of an Executive has allowed division and sectarianism to become more entrenched, threatening social cohesion and our international reputation as a successful peace process.

“The Executive must heed the lessons of the past, act decisively and commit fully to addressing the unfinished business of peace and reconciliation and political parties must acknowledge their significant role in achieving reconciliation,” the group said.

Positive leadership and consistent example setting were now essential.

“Reconciliation does not automatically ensue from peace. Despite decades of peace, reconciliation remains elusive.

“We must priorities reconciliation to avoid revisiting the same issues for future generations. At the heart of societal progress are new policies aimed at amplifying the civic voice, fostering open dialogue and promoting civic education and engagement,” the activists said.

A spokesman for the signatories said the Executive must listen to the concerns and aspirations of all citizens, including young people, new communities, women and other marginalised groups.

“We urge the Executive to capitalise on this moment to develop an inclusive peace and reconciliation strategy and to integrate these principles as the foundation stone of a programme for government,” he said.