I warmly welcome the news that agreement has been reached on the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly and on a range of other issues. As a wider consultation on the proposals begins, my prayer is that everyone in our society will reflect on what has been agreed today with a spirit of generosity and concern for the good of the whole community.

Local politicians are best placed to deal effectively with the issues that most affect the day to day life of people in Northern Ireland, especially the need for a shared approach to policing, security and justice. We need an urgent and united effort to stimulate economic recovery, address social need, to ensure the best possible education provision for children and to build on the vast improvement in community relations which has taken place in recent years. We need to show to each other the spirit of neighbourliness, welcome and generosity which others from outside so often see and celebrate in us. A local devolved Executive, working efficiently and in partnership for the good of everyone in our society remains the most effective way of achieving this.

I want to express my particular hope that efforts to address the issue of parades will be met with generosity, sensitivity and a willingness to go beyond old ways of approaching each other on all sides. Respectful dialogue and a willingness to treat each other with dignity and respect have been shown time and time again to be the most effective way of resolving the issues which challenge our society.  This remains the only way forward and the most effective way of refuting those who would wish to bring us back to the futility of violence and division.