NI's leaders issue New Year messages

Northern Ireland's main political leaders have issued New Year messages.

PETER ROBINSON, FIRST MINISTER

In his New Year message, First Minister Peter Robinson said 2012 was "a year filled with enormous pride" for the Queen and the United Kingdom.

Peter Robinson

"This was the first time a royal visit was pre-announced. Such events would have been unimaginable only a decade ago," he said.

"The sporting success of the province was also a highlight of 2012.

"2012 also saw the opening of Titanic Belfast.

"However, against this backdrop of celebration, I know 2012 was a difficult year in many homes.

"Undoubtedly 2013 will bring challenges but there is much to look forward to as well. Northern Ireland will host the first United Kingdom City of Culture in Londonderry.

"2013 will also see Northern Ireland hosting the World Police and Fire Games. This will bring tens of thousands of visitors from all round the world.

"Another highlight of 2013 will be the United Kingdom hosting the 39th G8 summit in County Fermanagh. This is a tremendous opportunity for Northern Ireland to feature on the world news agenda for the right reasons.

"The decision to remove the Union Flag from Belfast City Hall was ill-considered and provocative. People are entitled - even justified in protesting - but nobody can justify threats, acts of violence or other unlawful behaviour.

"Whilst securing peace and stability must be always be our goal I have asked our ministers to redouble their efforts to attract and secure more jobs for the province."

MARTIN MCGUINNESS, DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said there would be many challenges to overcome in 2013 but that he looked forward with hope and ambition.

"During the last 12 months the unfinished journey of our peace process has continued to unfold," he said.

Martin McGuinness

"I am pleased that we overcame significant challenges and successfully advanced important developments, including sign-off on the Long Kesh/Maze site, and real progress in attracting new investment and jobs in the north.

"However, the world-wide economic crisis has also left many of our citizens jobless and driven many employers to the wall. I am absolutely determined that the efforts of the executive will intensify next year to protect existing jobs and create new employment.

"Our priority must be to protect the most vulnerable in society; defend public services; and to support small businesses, employers, and the agricultural industry.

"Our future must be one of reconciliation and the politics of hope and change. In taking all of this forward we will of course face many challenges, not least the continuing blight of sectarianism and segregation.

"Meeting these will require imagination and compromise. But compromise discriminates against no-one and benefits us all. "

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