Across the Divide
The British do pomp and ceremony well and the Irish know how to let their hair down, so, as you might expect, the historic Northern Irish reception at Windsor Castle on Thursday, hosted by Queen Elizabeth, and the barnstorming ‘Ceiliúradh’ (‘Celebration’) afterwards in the Royal Albert Hall, hosted by President Higgins, were memorable moments in our peace journey.
I was honoured when the President issued a joint invite to the Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisín Quinn and myself to join him on the groundbreaking State Visit to Britain.
I told the Belfast Telegraph that, for me, the visit was about building the peace and showing respect to our unionist brothers and sisters in Belfast. And in the Belfast Media Group, I urged republicans and nationalists to see the initiative as part of our continuing commitment to ensure that the wrongs of the past are never repeated in the Belfast of the future.
During my visit to London, I joined Lord Mayor Quinn at the Tourism Ireland offices in central London where a dedicated team under CEO Niall Gibbons is doing exceptional work to increase visitor numbers to all of Ireland. And I also got the opportunity to visit the London Irish Centre to meet with director David Barlow and thank him for the unconditional welcome thousands of Belfast citizens who took the boat to England received at the Camden Irish Centre.
I have fewer days left in this high office (50) than I have years on planet earth (54), but we intend to play until the final whistle on 2 June.
And before then, I need your help to raise funds for the NI Hospice Rebuilding Appeal through sponsorship of my Belfast Marathon bid on 5 May. I had the great privilege of meeting some patients and relatives during a recent visit to the temporary hospice and afterwards received this moving and heartfelt letter. Let these words, which speak to the goodness and spirit of Belfast, inspire us all to stand with the Hospice in their Hour of Need.
You can make a donation on JustGiving here.