Peace statue unveiled

  A replica of a statue which has become an international symbol of peace was unveiled in Northern Ireland this week. First minister David Trimble, and deputy first minister Seamus Mallon were present at the official unveiling ceremony at the Stormont assembly buildings. The statue, depicting two kneeling, embracing figures, is a copy of statues in Coventry, Hiroshima and Berlin, which have come to symbolise the healing that was necessary in the cities after the Second World War. Mr Trimble said the cast "will be a daily reminder to the participants in this particular political process of what society stands to gain when swords are turned into ploughshares". The work of 96-year-old Spanish sculptor Josefina de Vasconcellos was funded by Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson and was presented by Coventry Cathedral's International Centre for Reconciliation. The same partnership was behind the three other statues. A fifth has been planned for Jerusalem. Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly from across the political spectrum and Catholic and Protestant schoolchildren joined the two leaders watching the unveiling of the figures, sheltered from the rain in a marquee. Diplomatic representatives of Israel, Japan and Germany were also present and placed stones from each country at the water feature built around the statue. Mr Mallon said: "Reconciliation is the noble outcome of many complex factors when honestly addressed - factors of history, humanity, hope and humility. "It is not an easy or short-term task but it is one to which we must all remain committed."

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