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Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 19:34 GMT
Millennium heralds NI's bright future

First Minister David Trimble: Year of progress predicted

Northern Ireland's political leaders have spoken of their hope that the world will see a "permanent and recognisable" peace in the province in the new year.

The Search for Peace
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In a millennium message, First Minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon predicted: "This will be a year of opportunity and a year of progress."

The two leaders' vision of a pluralist new society comes little more than a month after the formation of the devolved coalition government in Belfast for the first time in 25 years.

"Our pledge to the people of Northern Ireland is to do all in our power to ensure that this administration delivers tangible results in each area of policy for which it is responsible," they said in a joint statement.

Deputy First Minister, Seamus Mallon: Appeal for help
Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon also issued an appeal to the people of Northern Ireland to play a role.

"Help us celebrate this opportunity in our history by sharing in the vision.

"It is a vision that sees all of us working together to make Northern Ireland a better place in which to live - a place where everyone will have the chance to be the success in life that they want to be.

"It is a vision that sees us as a stable society with a confident, outward-looking people, eager to play their part in Europe and the wider world."

Meanwhile Ulster Unionist dissident MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the people of Northern Ireland desired a real and lasting peace in his New Year message.

"There is a huge responsibility on the IRA to give a lead in beginning the process of decommissioning the weapons of terror.

"The loyalist terror groups must also deliver on their commitments to disarm", he said.

The Lagan Valley MP who has consistently opposed the Good Friday Agreement said the meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council would give the party the opportunity to review progress on decommissioning.

On that basis unionists would consider their continued participation in the executive, he said.

Martin McGuinness: Hope and history beginning to rhyme
In his eve of millennium message Sinn Fein education minister Martin McGuinness said the agreement had "heralded the end of a century littered with political failure, injustice, inequality and domination".

"But, by working together, unionists, nationalists, loyalists and republicans have changed the way in which we will approach the year 2000," he said.

"Hope and history are beginning to rhyme."

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