Script - Thursday 10th May
On this day in 1994 Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the President of South Africa. In his speech he spoke with characteristic passion saying, “We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.”
Within a few years Northern Ireland achieved what has been described as its own Mandela Moment.
Today twenty years years ago Sinn Fein at a party conference agreed what has become know as thw Good Friday Agreement. This was later ratified by all the people of Ireland in the referendum on the 22nd May.
The Unionist Party leader David Trimble echoed Mandela’s words when he said “I see a great opportunity for us to start a healing process”
Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein said,
"We know the road we are embarking on will have many twists and turns. The vast majority of our supporters…have voted for a new political era based on peace and reconciliation."
I remember well the palpable sense of hope there was in Belfast in 1998.
I’m grateful that my children have grown up in relative peace and not the experience of my youth.
Both South Africa and Northern Ireland have come a long way since those new beginnings.
Many tasks are still unfinished. We have good reason to remember how we got here and to press on.
Remind us of the hope you have given us and the ministry of reconciliation to which you have called us.
Keep us focussed on what you require of us.