However, we now have an end to armed campaigns, substantial progress on the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons, and devolved political institutions that offer the prospect of lasting peace and stability.
Only with political certainty and security can the North effectively move forward and pursue economic development. Growing our economy and staving off the effects of the global financial crisis remain the Northern Ireland Executive’s priority.
These are all necessary conditions as we grow as a society. But there is a further and equally import requirement if we are to succeed in making the North a better place.
It is imperative that we address social development as the real work of reconciliation, not just to end conflict and reduce tension, but to map out a pathway for a better, shared future.
In recent weeks we have seen the most unedifying of sights in Romanian families being forced from their homes in Belfast.
A worldwide audience has seen, on their television screens, young families and babies no more than a few days old fleeing in terror.
It is most unfortunate that 100 Romanians have decided to return to the country of the birth, having come to the North in the hope of a better life and a fairer society.
I utterly condemn this spate of racist attacks on these Romanian families. Their plight has been projected all over the world for everyone to see, and it is totally unacceptable in this day and age.
But let me make one thing clear. The north of Ireland is not a racist region. We have no bigger or smaller problem than anywhere else.
The diversity of everyone living here must be embraced and we should welcome the contribution Romanians, or indeed any foreign nationals, bring to the island of Ireland.
I have no doubt the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland deplore this kind of “ethnic cleansing” and it is important that leadership from within all sections of government do everything they can to encourage a shared future for all.
The Northern Ireland Executive is committed to the publication of a “Program for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration for a Shared and Better Future,” but it has gotten caught up in the perpetual rowing behind closed doors between the Sinn F