US Diplomat Dr Richard Haass accepted the 2013 Tipperary International Peace Award at a ceremony in Ballykisteen Hotel and Golf Resort on Monday.
The Northern Ireland Peace Talks Chairman was accompanied by his wife Susan Mercandetti, son Samuel and daughter Francesco, who this week have been enjoying the sights and sounds of Tipperary. Host Martin Quinn said the rousing tune of “It’s a long way to Tipperary” had come to associate the county with warfare. It was now fitting the county is associated with peacemaking. As a mark of how the Peace Awards have grown in stature, a “60 Minutes” news team from US public broadcaster PBS interviewed Dr Haass in Ballykisteen, meaning tens of millions of Americans will get a glimpse of the Premier County.
Attended by Ambassadors from across the world, dignitaries from North and South, and members of the Defence Forces, senior Gardaí, Clergy, Councillors,- Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore sent his best wishes, while the Government was respresented by Deputy Alan Kelly.
Mr Quinn said significant progress was made under Dr Haass, who had to face the “most difficult and contentious issues that face society in Northern Ireland. In his work with Dr Meghan O’Sullivan, Dr Haass’ outreach has hadthe effectof encouraging people to believe in change and demand leadership for a more reconciled society. Today Northern Ireland’s political leaders are continuing to come together with a view to reaching agreement on series of outstanding issues. The work carried out by Dr Haass will be a solid foundation for the Agreement which Northern Ireland’s leaders must deliver. The people of Northern Ireland expect that their elected representatives will show real leadership while working towards a comprehensive and balanced solution to the difficult issues before them.
“Since the conclusion of Dr Haass’ term as Chair, he has continued to take a keen interest in Northern Ireland and in the political talks in particular.” Mr Quinn said he has continued to talk to Dr Haass by phone over the last months conveying to him his congratulations in person.
“I am pleased that today wider recognition is being given to the central and far-sighted role which he played in advancing the (George) Mitchell talks,” concluded Mr Quinn.
Full report in this week’s Tipperary Star.