Saturday, 10 August 2013

Ford says we need to build on our progress

If the slogan for 2012 was "Our Time Our Place" then this year we should be shouting "We Can Do It". 

That was the message from Justice Minister David Ford speaking ahead of the closing ceremony for the 2013 World Police and Fire Games. 

The Minister, however, warned that progress made should not be taken for granted and work still needs to be done on a number of issues.

David Ford said: "The image of Northern Ireland has been riding high across the world through our ability to deliver the most peaceful G8 Summit ever and what Mike Graham, President of the WPFG Federation, called both the friendliest and the best World Police and Fire Games. These things do not happen by chance and a lot of people are to be thanked for their efforts. 

"In 2007 it was announced that the games were coming to Northern Ireland and since then Dame Mary Peters, Patron of 2013 WPFG, has been a tireless champion for the Games.

"The board of the company set up to deliver the games was very effectively led by Judith Gillespie, Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I have no doubt Judith is very proud of the successes achieved by her officers across a wide range of sports.

"Delivering 56 sports at 41 venues for around 7000 competitors would not have been possible without the selfless contributions made by over 3000 volunteers who played a massive part in making these the 'friendliest games ever'.

"As minister with responsibility for the police and prison services I thank all those officers, serving and retired, who participated and made our visitors welcome. The people of Northern Ireland also opened their hearts and came out in their thousands to watch very varied and exciting competitions.

"I hope that when the competitors return home and are asked about their experiences, their first comments will reflect the positive experiences they had and not the disgraceful violent scenes played out in the very heart of Belfast.

"Those who go out to create trouble on our streets must be sidelined by the greater majority, who have shown they will support new things, such as the Games. There can be no excuses for attacking police officers, who for too many years have put themselves forward to protect our community. Northern Ireland has moved on and troublemakers need to realise that fact. Actions by some cannot be used by others as an excuse for lawbreaking. 

"Those of us in politics have an obvious role in showing mature leadership, talking through the difficult issues and coming up with solutions that can help deliver a truly shared future. Next month, as we begin all-party talks, that will be a challenge we must meet and overcome. The progress made in many areas over recent years must be used as a solid foundation for moving ahead not squandered over disputes where no-one wins." 

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