There was a service of reconciliation held in the the city of Derry not long ago. There has been progress in the Maiden City since the days of the troubles. There is hope for peace across Ireland more so now than in past years. Just the autumn , both Protestant and Catholic families in Derry felt the need to move house because they could not keep house in peace, without bullets flying through the windows and arson attacks in the stairwell . Yet the people of Derry by and large are a friendly lot, cooperative and happy too, going about their lives day to day. But when violence flares, it still flares along sectarian lines, though the impetus there days may more commonly be teenage hormones or drink than politics, it still finds expression in the lines of the brutal history of Bloody Sunday and the centuries that stretch before.

It is safer now than it was in the north of Ireland, safer to walk the streets and safer to live in them. There are cross border initiatives both cultural and economic, and it seems that the PSNI and the Gardai will be in better co operation officially and unofficially. But there was a bombing in Newry a few months back, a sad reminder of the times and divisions Tommy Sands wrote of in his song There Were Roses, drawn from a true story. There were shots fired in Omagh and there was gang violence at a funeral in County Louth. None of these things seem to have had their origins in disagreements between Protestant and Catholic, but they find expression through that frame of thought and in that language, which only makes the peace process harder. Those who objected to the Derry service said that the victims could not stand with the victimizers. Which is which, when anger and bloodshed persist? Perhaps the time to stand together, as the statue on the Craigavon Bridge suggests, reach out hands one to the other is here with this new year.

[Edited by Simon – Minor tweak]

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