His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has urged the people of Northern Ireland not to give up on the Peace Process in a visit to Derry this week. The Tibetan leader was speaking at an event organised by the charity ‘Children in Crossfire’, of which he is patron, as part of Derry’s UK City of Culture Celebrations.

He addressed the crowd from the city’s new Peace Bridge, situated on the river Foyle. The bridge is immensely important as connects Waterside, a mainly Unionist area, and the West Bank, a Republican area. Tensions have been resurfacing in Northern Ireland ever since December 3 2012, when rioting broke out after Belfast City Council made the decision to only fly the union flag above Belfast City Hall on certain days. Demonstrations still take place against the measure. This week the Council voted down a proposal by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to fly the flag in the cenotaph every day of the year.

Another recent catalyst was the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, which was celebrated by members of the Republican community. This angered many loyalists and led to disturbances and arrests.

Speaking to the Guardian, former Irish National Liberation Army prisoner Willie Gallagher said “Its just a pity we didn’t kill her 30-plus years ago.” A coffin was then burnt with Mrs. Thatcher’s face on it.

Speaking to a crowd of 2,500 people, the Dalai Lama said: “There is no other alternative to the peace process. There is no other choice – you have to work and live together, so we should not act like animals.”

The event was organised by local man Richard Moore. Mr. Moore was blinded by a rubber bullet aged 10 in 1972 and has since become friends with the soldier who shot him, Charles Innes.

The Dalai Lama he had visited Mr. Moore’s mother, Florrie, earlier that day as she was too ill to travel to the event. He told her: “Your son is my hero, you are the mother of my hero, you are also my hero.”

As a symbolic gesture, the Dalai Lama joined schoolchildren and the leaders of the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland dioceses in Derry to walk across the bridge.

Mr. Moore said: “We hope that by bringing together the heads of two of our local Churches, the spirit of his holiness, the children of our area and the culture of compassion from our organisation, Children in Crossfire, we can create a real legacy of peace.”

BY: Matthew Jones

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