Miracle workers

This evening I attended a ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Northern Ireland Executive’s Brussels Office. It was yet further proof that miracles can and do happen. I grew up in London in the 1970s, a time when IRA bombs and bomb scares were a frequent occurrence. I remember with particular vividness the 31 October 1971 Post Office Tower bomb. My brother was in Great Ormond Street Hospital and I walked from Euston to the hospital the day before and on the day itself and remember gazing up at the damaged tower (which has remained closed to the public ever since). I remember too the claustrophobia of bomb scares and emergency evacuations in the London Underground. The bombs felt very close in those days. At this evening’s event there were three speakers: Peter Robinson, First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and a Sinn Féin member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. The latter’s presence was not purely symbolic. As one of our members, Jane Morrice, strongly argued in a December 2007 EESC initiative opinion (The role of the EU in the Northern Ireland peace process), the EU played a key role. In his speech, McGuinness (allegedly a former active IRA member) confirmed this, adding with passion how he had been inspired by the genesis of the EU and, in particular, the way France and Germany had found a way to co-exist peacefully.