17 September 2021

Conor Burns vows to go to places UK ministers ‘don’t often go’

17 September 2021

The latest Northern Ireland Office minister has said he hopes to go to places that British government ministers do not often go.

Conor Burns was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as Minister of State in the Northern Ireland Office on Thursday.

Speaking at an event in Belfast on Friday, he said he had been in the region for the last few days, adding it felt like “coming home”.

He revealed that on Thursday he had visited his old primary school, Our Lady of Lourdes Park Lodge, on the Antrim Road in the north of the city.

“I talked to the primary 7 pupils and they were quite struck that one of their own was now in the British House of Commons and had worked closely with the man who is now Prime Minister of the United Kingdom when he was Foreign Secretary,” he said.

“I realised when I was telling them about the times when I used to walk to school up Waterloo Park Avenue and along the Antrim Road, you saw the old armoured police Land Rovers, you saw the army around, bombs were a regular occurrence, the security guards who used to get on to the bus as you were going up Royal Avenue into town, the big iron gates there used to be, the city centre dead at night time, thank god they are now in a different Northern Ireland.

“It is our precious charge to protect that and to ensure that sustains and that they get the opportunities that were denied to previous generations because of the Troubles, and that requires co-operation and dialogue north/south, east/west.”

He also revealed he visited one of his uncles, a rector of Clonard Monastery, adding they met in the room that former SDLP leader John Hume and ex-Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams used to start their talks which went on towards an IRA ceasefire.

“I want to use my time here to reach out, I want to go places that maybe UK government ministers don’t go to talk to people that often, or necessarily find themselves in the company of,” he said.

“I think there is a job of work to do in increasing the frequency of the dialogue and the depth of the understanding (between the British and Irish governments.”

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