Tuesday 21 November 2017

Higgins tells North's leaders to confront violence

President Michael D Higgins meets Sharon Grant, widow of the former Tottenham MP Bernie Grant, during his visit to Haringey, north London
President Michael D Higgins meets Sharon Grant, widow of the former Tottenham MP Bernie Grant, during his visit to Haringey, north London

Shane Hickey

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has called on community leaders in Northern Ireland to "accept their responsibilities" following the recent violence across Belfast.

Speaking in London, he said problems from the past had not died away and there were "questions to be answered" as a result of the rioting.

Mr Higgins' comments are the latest condemnations from a senior political figure following the violence which has left more than 70 police injured.

"The toxins of a divisive past have not entirely abated and they threaten much of what has been achieved," he said.

His remarks came during his fourth visit as president to London, where he met with members of the ex-pat community in Haringey.

"If we are putting so much effort into building peace and if the communities and institutions in Northern Ireland are making great efforts to reach out to each other, then I think those who have influence in Northern Ireland must accept their responsibilities to forthrightly say what is simply not acceptable," he said.

"Peace is much more than signatures on a piece of paper, it is about inter-community relations and the new institutions that are coming into being.

"How can anyone justify so many policemen being injured in behaviour that would be unaccepted in any part of the world?"

In his speech to the Haringey Irish Community and Cultural centre, the President paid tribute to Irish people who had moved to London and helped develop relationships between the two countries.

He was greeted at the centre by a steel band from the Montserrat community, a country which is nicknamed the 'Emerald Isle' of the Caribbean. Their community also uses the hall for events.

Amongst those he met in Haringey were the manager of London GAA Paul Coggins, captain Seamus Hannon and player Mark Gottsche, ahead of their historic match against Mayo in the Connacht final this weekend.

The President later received an honorary doctorate from the school of law in Middlesex University and met with students afterwards.

Irish Independent

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