It is precisely the dramatic changes in both countries that allow us to see the possibilities of change in our relationship with each other.
It will require vision, but no more than the vision that has transformed Ireland. It will require imagination, but no more than that shown by the British people in the last two years. The old ways are changing between London and Dublin. And this can spur the change and healing in Northern Ireland too. The old notions of unionist supremacy and of narrow nationalism are gradually having their fingers pried from their grip on the future.
Different traditions have to understand each other. Just as we must understand your yearning for a united Ireland, so too must you understand what the best of unionism is about. They are good and decent people, just like you. They want to remain part of the UK -- and I have made it clear that I value that wish. They feel threatened. Threatened by the terrorism with which they have had to live for so long, and threatened, until the Good Friday Agreement, that they would be forced into a united Ireland against the will of the people of Northern Ireland.
Yet they realize now that a framework in which consent is guaranteed is also one in which basic rights of equality and justice are guaranteed, and that those who wish a united Ireland are free to make that claim, provided it is democratically expressed, just as those who believe in the Union can make their claim.
It is all about belonging: the wish of unionists to belong to the UK; the wish of nationalists to belong to Ireland. Both traditions are reasonable. There are no absolutes. The beginning of understanding is to realize that.