As part of the State Visit of the Irish President to the UK, the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP today addressed a youth event in London.
It’s a great honour for me to be here at City Hall today and to play a part in this first ever state visit to the UK by the President of Ireland.
President, I am delighted that you’ve focused this afternoon on young people and the hugely positive role they can play in building a better future for everyone who lives in these islands.
Your visit underlines the great strength of relations between our 2 countries and the bonds that unite us as good neighbours and good friends.
As Northern Ireland Secretary, I see this on a constant basis in the work I do with Irish ministers on matters of mutual concern in Northern Ireland, in particular with An Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore.
The immense progress in Northern Ireland made in recent years would not have happened without close co-operation between successive UK and Irish governments.
It’s now nearly 20 years since the first ceasefires and tomorrow is the 16th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
We’ve come a very long way, with a generation in Northern Ireland now having grown up without the constant spectre of large scale paramilitary violence.
But having achieved a more peaceful and stable Northern Ireland and a political settlement based on the democracy and consent, we now need to build a stronger economy and a genuinely shared future for all parts of the community.
And young people can play a crucial role in achieving those twin goals of reconciliation and economic renewal as illustrated by the presentations heard here today.
So I’m delighted to hear the conclusions of the workshops in which you’ve all been participating.
I’d like to congratulate William, Daniel and Nikita on their awards and thank all of you who have taken part in this event and made your voice heard.
And finally I warmly thank the President and Mrs Higgins for coming to City Hall today.
London is now one of the most diverse cities in the world with millions of residents who have cultural roots and family ties with nations from all the corners of the globe.
And we’re also a great Irish city.
In the past, the Irish built the roads and railways that powered the industrial revolution and made our city great, and now people of Irish nationality and heritage play a leading role in every sector of our economic and cultural life.
We are hugely lucky that over many hundreds of years, so many Irish men and women have chosen to make their home in London.
And your visit, President, is a tremendous opportunity to honour the immense contribution that they have made.