Londonderry’s selection as the UK’s first City of Culture is a fitting tribute to all those who have worked for peace through its troubled past, it has been claimed.
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the accolade ensured his native Derry could now look to a brighter future.
“This is a gift to the peacemakers,” an emotional Mr McGuinness said moments after the result was announced in Liverpool on Thursday evening.
Londonderry saw off stiff rival bids from Birmingham, Norwich and Sheffield to be crowned UK City of Culture 2013.
The title, which comes with no government funding, is designed to help areas boost their economy through tourism and the creative industries.
The news was met with jubilant scenes in Northern Ireland’s second city.
It will also provide a much needed fillip for the entire region in a week were violence returned to the streets in the form of widespread rioting in a number of republican areas.
Derry witnessed much suffering and bloodshed during the troubles and the city is still marked by deep sectarian divisions, but in recent years strides have been made to bring Protestant and Catholic communities closer together.
“This is fantastic news for the city and the entire region and I am immensely proud of what has been achieved,” Mr McGuinness added.
“The task that now lies before us is to ensure that tonight’s announcement will provide a similar catalyst for my home town to avail of the potentially massive benefits culturally, economically and socially for all our people.
“It is an opportunity that Derry and its people will seize with both hands and I am especially looking forward to our return to Derry to join in what I know will be a fantastic occasion.”