July 5, 1997.

This is a time of great distress in Northern Ireland. People are living in fear and apprehension. The marching season is with us once more and all that that entails.

However, there are glimmers of hope. Some have asked: ‘does it always have to be like this?’, and have decided to do something about it. The efforts of the many people who have worked so hard to find a solution to the vexed question of contentious marches deserve great praise. Some progress has been made. The North Commission has presented its report. The British Government has promised comprehensive legislation to deal with the situation. This, however, is for the longer term.

For the present we must concentrate on the now. For this now prepares a future of hope or fear for all of us. Negotiations have taken place in some areas. The slow progress towards greater understanding must not now be put at risk. Now is the time to redouble efforts to build a better and a peaceful future desired by so many, when people of both traditions can live together in harmony and respect.

Now is the time to ensure that no more seeds of future violence are sown by acts of mindless aggression or short-sighted triumphalism. There is only one triumph worth striving for – the victory of common sense and reason where no side is hurt or humiliated.

The request that outsiders should stay away from flashpoint areas should be respected. Local disputes must eventually be solved locally by the people concerned.

I appeal for great calm and restraint at this time. People must not allow themselves to be manipulated. They must listen and be guided by those leaders who are urging restraint and moderation. They must not allow themselves to be provoked and they must avoid provoking others to violence.

I invite those who feel they must do something or go somewhere to promote peace this weekend to take part either personally or spiritually in the annual pilgrimage in honour of St. Oliver Plunkett in Drogheda on Sunday. Oliver Plunkett was a tireless worker for peace and a fearless reconciler in his day. For the last few days many people have been praying fervently for peace through his intercession. We need his example and help now to guide us to the ways of peace.

This is a time for courageous generosity. It requires the kind of generosity that will listen to the two sides of the story and hears the hurts and fears of all. It calls for the wisdom to see that intransigence is not a sign of strength but of insecurity.