Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland’s First Minister, has made a plea for an end to the decades of sectarian strife between Protestants and Catholics in Ulster.
Speaking at a conference for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on Saturday in County Down, Northern Ireland, he said: The conflict of this last 40 years has created terrible divisions. It became a case of 'them and us' and that attitude deepened divisions even further. If we want a better society it can't be them and us--- it can only be all of us.
Robinson, who is the leader of DUP, said that the long-term security of Northern Ireland’s union with Great Britain would depend on the support of a large number of Catholics. He also asserted that it was time to open a new chapter in Northern Ireland’s grim and bloody history.
“We have the prospect of making a difference that previous generations never had or never took, a chance that future generations may never get or never grab,” he said.
I tell you, now is the moment. Miss it and we may miss it forever. Miss it and we may drift and stray”.
The DUP chief, who has been deeply involved in Northern Irish politics for forty years, also said there was a need in Ulster for a shared education system -- that is, an end to segregated schools for Protestant and Catholic children.
The DUP's ambition will be the laughter of all our children, playing and living together, with a future that doesn't see them having to leave our shores, but wanting to live here, in Northern Ireland, within the United Kingdom, he added.
Nigel Dodds, DUP deputy leader, also urged reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
We need to build a society now which is more integrated, more shared, he said.
The current position means that in these tough economic times there are a lot of services and measures which are very expensive because they are segregated. We believe the mood is right in Northern Ireland for that to be addressed.
Northern Ireland’s population is roughly evenly divided between Protestants and Catholics.
Ironically, the DUP was founded by Protestant firebrand Rev. Ian Paisley, who is widely despised by Catholics in both Ulster and the Republic of Ireland. Paisley advocated strong ties with Britain. However, by 1996, DUP entered into a power-sharing agreement with Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican party.
In addition, Robinson said he plans to create 25,000 jobs over the next four years.
According to Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, unemployment in Ulster amounted to 7.4 percent as of July 2011.