Today, Northern Ireland has taken another important step toward a full and lasting peace. Its political leaders have agreed on a roadmap and a timeline for the devolution of policing and justice powers, and they have taken other productive steps as well. The accord they reached today will help consolidate the hard-won gains of the past decade.
This has not been an easy road. There were plenty of bumps along the way. I have been in regular contact with the parties since my trip to Belfast in October, and I know that at times the path forward was far from clear. So I want to applaud all the parties for ultimately choosing negotiation over confrontation. In finalizing this deal, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness and their teams displayed the kind of leadership that the people of Northern Ireland deserve.
I want to recognize the leadership and patient resolve of Prime Minister Brown and Taoiseach Cowen, as well as Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward and Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin. They have stayed resolutely focused on moving this process forward, forging common ground, and reaching an outcome that would keep Northern Ireland on the path of peace and stability.
This is not the end of the journey. So far, the devolution process has enabled Northern Ireland’s leaders to enact a range of needed reforms, from health to housing to environmental safety. Now they have even greater authority, and with that authority comes greater responsibility. They must continue to lead. The people of Northern Ireland are poised to build a thriving society on this stronger foundation—a country where neighbors can live free from fear and all people have the opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential.
This is a dream nurtured for so long in the hearts of people across Northern Ireland. It is also a dream that lives far beyond its borders, in all countries and communities where ethnic and religious conflicts persist. This latest success in Northern Ireland points the way forward—and not only for this one conflict. Northern Ireland gives us hope that, despite entrenched opposition and innumerable setbacks, diligent diplomacy and committed leadership can overcome generations of suspicion and hostility.
Now, we join the world in looking to the leaders of Northern Ireland to build upon their efforts by promoting a new spirit of cooperation among all parties.
As they do, the United States will help. Our Economic Envoy, Declan Kelly, will continue working to help Northern Ireland reap the dividends of peace, including economic growth, international investment, and new opportunities. In the near future, Declan and I will host First Minister Robinson and Deputy First Minister McGuinness here in Washington to discuss further investment in Northern Ireland and ways to build on this agreement.
Today we salute this achievement. We recognize that a new chapter of partnership among Northern Ireland’s political leadership and people must begin. I am confident that people of Northern Ireland will make the most of this moment. And I want to reaffirm the commitment of the United States—and my personal commitment as well—to support Northern Ireland in every way we can.
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