History can help reconciliation, President Higgins says in Belfast

President praises role of Ian Paisley

 President Michael D Higgins  shares a joke with Ian Paisley, former First Minister of Northern Ireland, during a reception at Belfast City Hall to mark St Columbanus Day. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

President Michael D Higgins shares a joke with Ian Paisley, former First Minister of Northern Ireland, during a reception at Belfast City Hall to mark St Columbanus Day. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

 

History can be an instrument of reconciliation rather than of division, the President Michael D Higgins said on a visit to Belfast yesterday.

President Higgins praised the former DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley, now Lord Bannside, at a St Columbanus lunch in Belfast City Hall, which was attended by the former First Minister and his wife Baroness Paisley.

“Undoing the knots of memories so as to unlock the power to heal rather than divide is a challenging, often painful, but ultimately rewarding, and even cathartic task,” said the President.

“Undoing these knots requires acts of leadership, such as that demonstrated by Lord Bannside when he led his party into a power-sharing government with his erstwhile political enemies,” he added.

President Higgins also commended the Sinn Féin lord mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir for his participation at a recent “ceremony of remembrance previously perceived as exclusive to one community”.

President Higgins, who also met members of the Irish Football Association and later attended the annual Aisling Awards, wished US diplomat Dr Richard Haass well in his efforts to reach all-party agreement on parades, flags and the past.