President McAleese has been speaking today of the need to continue with efforts to find a solution to the problems of Northern Ireland. She said that although the pace of change in the North might at times seem “heartbreakingly slow” and almost too small to measure, change was possible. The President was speaking to pilgrims in Knock, County Mayo on the challenges of the new millennium. She said that she was concerned that most public attention seemed to be focussed not on the substance of the event, but on festivals and monuments. The millennium, she maintained, offered a very real chance to bridge the divisions caused by a century of brutality and sectarian hatred.

Mrs. McAleese also spoke of her concern at the continuing division between rich and poor in an age of growing affluence. “Too much talent and too many lives have already been wasted by denying sections of our society the opportunity and advantages that so many now enjoy,” she said. The President said that we needed to harness all our talents to make our country a place where every person counts and believes that he or she counts.