Saturday 24 February 2018

US President Barack Obama tells North: "You are proof peace is possible"

First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness meeting US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast at the beginning of the G8 Summit
First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness meeting US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast at the beginning of the G8 Summit
US first lady Michelle Obama arrives to introduce President Barack Obama to speak to students and other guests at Belfast Waterfront in Belfast
Student Hannah Nelson, 16, gives a speech at the Belfast event just before US President Barack Obama
Residents go about their daily life as tight security is show as US President Barak Obama arrives at Belfast Waterfront Hall before delivering his keynote address

US President Barack Obama gave a rousing speech honouring peace, prosperity and the people of Ireland as he landed in Belfast today.

Speaking at Waterfront Hall ahead of the G8 summit, he addressed political leaders and 2,000 others in one of his most inspiring speeches yet.

"When peace was achieved here, it gave the entire world hope," he said. "We strongly support a peaceful and prosperous  Northern Ireland There's still much work to do and there are still many more miles to go. It's as urgent now as it's ever been, because there's more to lose than ever.

"You need to get this right. You set the example for those who are seeking peace to end conflicts of their own. You are the blueprint to follow. You are the proof of what is possible. Hope is contagious. They are watching to see what you do next.

Although Mr Obama mentioned "two men,", whom he hosted for "many a St.Patrick's Day" celebration at The White House, Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson, he emphasised the responsibility each Irish citizen holds in maintaining the quest for continuance of peace.

"The terms of peace may be negotiated by political leaders, but the fate of peace is up to each of you," he continued.

"I spend the whole year trying to unite Washington and they do it in one afternoon."

"The world is watching. You should know that as long as you are moving forward, America will stand with you.

While the US President's emotional speech touched on a number of senstitive issues as expected, he injected elements of humour, reminiscing about his last time in Ireland - two years ago, for a very brief to Dublin.

He recalled meeting world number one golfer Rory McIlroy.

"Golf fans like me had to wait a long six decades for the Irish Open to return," he said. "I am unhappy that I won't get a few rounds in. I did meet Rory McIlroy last year - Rory offered to 'get my swing sorted, which I think he was trying to say was, 'Mr President, I think you need some help.'

"None of that would have been imaginable years ago. To travel without the burden of checkpoints and soldiers...knowing that violence could blacken at any moment."

By Caitlin McBride

Online Editors

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