Northern Ireland

Civil rights activist Rev Jesse Jackson visits Derry

The civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson, has praised the progress made by the communities of Northern Ireland.

On a two day visit, he presented a civil rights award in Londonderry and also met victims of the Troubles from both communities in Belfast.

"We have learned a bad lesson well," he said. "We have learned to survive apart.

"We must learn to live together and not co-annihilate each other."

He said there had been an improvement in the situation in Northern Ireland after the departure of troops from the streets.

"We see Christians, Catholics and Protestants relating more freely. They look back on the occupation of the past as an ancient thing and wrong.

"But unfinished business remains, so the issue is education, healthcare, job creating and home construction."

The Presbyterian Minister, Rev David Latimer, praised Rev Jackson's visit.

"He understands. He has been through the pain and he described it in lovely biblical language.

"The crucifixion has been grim for the people of America and grim for the people of Northern Ireland but this is not a hopeless situation because there is a hope of resurrection."

During his visit to Derry, Rev Jackson presented the Henry Cunningham Human Rights Award to Mairead O'Doherty, a pupil at Crana college in Buncrana.

Henry Cunningham, a teenager from Carndonagh, was shot dead by the UVF in 1973.

The Pat Finucane centre's Paul O'Connor arranged the visit.

"There's an entire generation for whom this is completely history.

"They've learnt about Martin Luther King, and they're standing up in the Guildhall receiving a prize for someone who was with Martin Luther King.

"I think that's incredibly important."

Rev Jackson also called on President Barack Obama to visit Derry and Belfast when he comes to Ireland.

"The soil of Ireland is in Dublin but the soul of Ireland is in Belfast and in Derry," he said.

"It's where the struggles took place. It's where blood was spilled."

He said that the events on the streets of Derry on 30 January 1972 were foreshadowed a few years earlier in America.

"We in America identify very much with the struggles in Ireland and in 1965 when we saw the march for the right to vote beaten back by fire hoses and dogs and horses and the state troopers it was called Bloody Sunday.

"And after Bloody Sunday came ultimately our resurrection from the crucifixion.

"In 1972 you had your Bloody Sunday here in Derry and yet from the blood of the martyrs is redemptive.

"The blood of the innocent is powerful, so there is a new Ireland today.

"There is a new relationship with Britain because of this place."