By Patrick Markey
Vowing to continue their efforts for lasting peace and change in Northern Ireland, SDLP leader and the North’s first minister, David Trimble, accepted their joint Nobel Peace Prize Thursday at an awards ceremony in Oslo City Hall in Norway.
Both leaders of differing Irish traditions said that the award was a prize for an incomplete peace and stressed that much work was needed to follow through with the Good Friday Agreement and bring an end to the sectarian violence that had marked the history of Northern Ireland for 30 years.
Speaking before about 1,000 guests, Hume, who was recently honored at the Irish Echo’s 70th anniversary in New York, said the award was a powerful statement of support for the peace process on the streets of the North. Both men, Hume said, owed the prize to the ordinary people of Ireland.
“There is now, in Ireland, a passionate sense of moving to a new beginning,” Hume said. Quoting American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Hume said there would be difficulties, but “we shall overcome.”
“Too many lives have already been lost in Ireland in the pursuit of political goals. The challenge now is to grasp and shape history,” the nationalist leader said.
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Unionist leader Trimble said: “It may seem strange that we receive the reward of a race run while the race is still not finished. But the paramilitaries are finished. But the politics are not finished. It is the bedrock to which all societies return.”
Turning the focus of his speech to the troublesome issue of arms decommissioning, Trimble said he could not convince society forever that “real peace was at hand if there is not a beginning to the decommissioning of weapons.”
“Any further delay will reinforce dark doubts about whether Sinn Fein are drinking from the clear stream of democracy, or still drinking from the dark stream of fascism. It cannot for ever face both ways,” he said.
But, Trimble said, he did not accept that the peace process was in crisis: “I don’t accept that the process is running into trouble. I know that it is not,” he said.
In choosing Hume and Trimble, the Nobel committee said that both men had been the foremost of those who placed themselves in the fight for peace in Northern Ireland. Hume and Trimble received gold medals and a shared check for more than $950,000.
(Compiled from news and wire service reports.)