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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 May 2007, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Martin McGuinness' speech in full
DUP leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness have taken their pledges of office as devolution returns to Northern Ireland.
Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness, pictured delivering his speech

Here is the full text of the speech delivered at Stormont by Mr McGuinness.

I am proud to stand here today as an Irish republican who believes absolutely in a united Ireland.

I too wish to welcome the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and all our friends from around the world whose encouragement and support helped us reach this day.

Many people in this hall today played an important part in our peace process.

Many others could not be with us today. I want to send our warmest thanks to them.

We know that this will not be easy and the road we are embarking on will have many twists and turns
Martin McGuinness

We will continue to rely on that support as we strive towards a society moving from division and disharmony to one which celebrates our diversity and is determined to provide a better future for all our people.

One which cherishes the elderly, the vulnerable, the young and all of our children equally; which welcomes warmly those from other lands and cultures who wish to join us and forge a future together. A society which remembers those who have lost their lives.

Last Saturday I spent time with families in County Tyrone who had lost loved ones.

They and many others throughout our community have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of our difficult and painful past - so we must look to the future to find the means to help them heal.

We must also focus on the practical. To build we need the tools and as I have said we look to our friends on these islands and beyond to provide the practical support we need.

As joint heads of the Executive, the first minister and I pledge to do all in our power to ensure it makes a real difference to the lives of all our people by harnessing their skills through a first rate education system, caring for our sick in the best health service we can provide and building our economy through encouraging investment and improving our infrastructure.

We know that this will not be easy and the road we are embarking on will have many twists and turns.

It is however a road which we have chosen and which is supported by the vast majority of our people.

In the recent elections they voted for a new political era based on peace and reconciliation.

On the evening of the Assembly election results I received a phone call from a 100-years-young woman, Molly Gallagher, in County Donegal.

We must overcome the difficulties which we face in order to achieve our goals and seize the opportunities that exist
Martin McGuinness
She told me she was very happy with the election results and that she was looking forward to seeing Ian Paisley and myself together. I'm sure she is watching us today. Hello Molly!

As for Ian Paisley, I want to wish you all the best as we step forward towards the greatest yet most exciting challenge of our lives.

Ireland's greatest living poet, a fellow Derry man, Seamus Heaney, once told a gathering that I attended at Magee University that for too long and too often we speak of the others or the other side and that what we need to do is to get to a place of through otherness.

The Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers is a good place to start. This will only work if we collectively accept the wisdom and importance of Seamus Heaney's words.

Since 26 March, much work has been done which has confounded critics and astounded the sceptics.

Like these talented people from Sky's the Limit, who entertained us so wonderfully today, we must overcome the difficulties which we face in order to achieve our goals and seize the opportunities that exist.

This and future generations expect and deserve no less from us.

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