Riots show ‘toxins of divisive past have not entirely abated’
President says much work remains to promote reconciliation in North
President Michael D Higgins who said today that despite the challenge of sectarianism he believed Ireland and Britain “now much better understand, respect and honour the history we share”.
“There is still much work to be done in promoting reconciliation between communities and ending sectarianism,” said Mr Higgins, when he spoke at the Haringey Irish Centre in North London this morning.
“Nevertheless, despite these challenges, I firmly believe that Ireland and Britain now much better understand, respect and honour the history we share and encounter with our different narratives, and we are now working together as confident equal partners on the world stage,” he said.
During a lengthy speech, Mr Higgins paid tribute to all those in the Irish community who had worked for decades when “it was difficult to be Irish in London”.
“It is very encouraging to see how the Irish community in Britain has evolved over recent years, and as, a direct consequence, how far the relationship between our countries has changed,” he said.
Declaring his neutrality in the Connacht Football Final between London and Mayo, Mr Higgins said the London team has won “a deserved place” at the Castlebar final.
“This is a fantastic and deserved achievement and is a testament to the GAA in Britain and the work that they have been doing over the years to promote our national games,” he went on.
Mr Higgins is no stranger to Haringey, having visited it frequently during the 1980s when he was friendly with the late Labour black MP, Bernie Grant, who was often a fire-brand but highly respected by Mr Higgins.
He was greeted on his arrival at Haringey by London-resident members of the Monserrat community - the Caribbean island between known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean.