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Record View: Province can show the way.

YESTERDAY was a momentous day in the troubled history of Northern Ireland. A day when the prospect of lasting peace and political stability in the province finally became a reality.

When the Rev Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness put decades of bloody conflict behind them to be sworn in as first minister and deputy first minister.

And when the once unthinkable goal of green and orange becoming united took a step closer to becoming achievable.

Paisley insisted it is time for Northern Ireland to move forward. McGuinness talked of ending division and disharmony and striving for a society which celebrates diversity.

Tony Blair watched the swearing-in ceremony before calling these once bitter rivals "good men" who had shown immense courage and leadership to put their pasts behind them and work together for the good of their country.

It has taken almost 10 years of talks, struggles and concessions to reach the point at which we arrived yesterday at Stormont.

The thousands who died during the Troubles must not be forgotten. In time, Northern Ireland may need its own version of South Africa's truth and reconciliation commission, where both victims and perpetrators of violence can testify.

The peace process also can be a guiding light for other conflicts around the world - even on our own doorstep.

If a former IRA commander and the head of the Protestant Free Presbyterian Church can put their differences aside, there is hope that one day the scourge of sectarianism will end in Scotland.

Ireland's deputy premier Michael McDowell called the new political order "a monumental step on the road towards reconciliation of green and orange".

The bigots on this side of the Irish Sea have always taken their lead from Northern Ireland. Let us hope they get the message that decades of religious hatred can be forgotten in the cause of peace and unity.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 9, 2007
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