New Year efforts must focus on peace: Murphy

31/12/2004 - 07:51:18

The year ahead poses many challenges for the peace process, Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said today.

In his New Year message, Mr Murphy reflected on the progress made in recent political talks but expressed disappointment that devolved government had not returned to Stormont.

“Yet I am encouraged by the huge steps we have taken towards getting the Assembly and its institutions back up and running.

“I firmly believe that in the New Year we must channel all our efforts into taking those final few steps together to return power to locally-elected politicians,” he said.

Last month’s talks failed to reach agreement after Ian Paisley’s DUP demanded photographic evidence of IRA disarmament.

Republicans have refused to take this step, claiming the DUP is calling for an act of humiliation.

Mr Murphy also reflected on the Asian tsunami that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

“This season is traditionally a time of hope, thanksgiving and reflection. But it is also a painful time for those who have lost loved ones. Sadly, this Christmas has also seen a global humanitarian disaster of almost unimaginable proportions.

“At this time, as we remember our own victims in Northern Ireland, it is very moving to witness the generosity of the community here as it reaches out to those who are suffering across the world.

“It is that generosity of spirit, that instinctive ability to reach out and respond to those in need that gives me real cause for hope as we continue to strive to heal the wounds of our own community.”

Mr Murphy said the British government would continue to support all those who have been affected by violence in Northern Ireland.

“I remain committed to the complex and difficult process of searching for a sensitive and meaningful way of dealing with the past.

“In the wider context, we still face the challenge of tackling organised criminality in the community. It is vital that we continue in our efforts to frustrate, disrupt and bring to justice those involved.”

He condemned the racist attacks that have become an increasing feature of life in the North.

“As a government we are determined to tackle racism, sectarianism, and hostility based on sexual orientation or disability in Northern Ireland. We owe it to everyone to ensure that we continue to build a strong and diverse community for future generations to enjoy.”

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