Northern Ireland is sign of progress: Obama

Barack Obama has name-checked Northern Ireland as an example of progress towards political stability, in his keynote speech to the UN General Assembly.  His address centred on the ongoing Arab Spring.

“From Northern Ireland to South Asia, from Africa to the Americas, from the Balkans to the Pacific rim, we’ve witnessed convulsions that can accompany transitions to a new political order,” he stated.  “At times, the conflicts arise along the fault lines of faith, race or tribe, and often they arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world.

“In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening.  In every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others.”

Setting the context, Obama said that true democracy did not end at the ballot box but incorporated the rule of law, due process and transparency.  He condemned the “crude and disgusting” anti-Islamic video, which provoked violence against US diplomats, but the strongest weapon against hateful speech was not repression but “more speech” i.e. voices of tolerance and understanding.

The US Administration counts the Northern Ireland peace process as a major foreign policy achievement.  This was one of Obama’s last major foreign policy events before the presidential election on 6 November.  Opinion poll averages give the President a 49 per cent popularity rating, three points ahead of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Castro

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