US President Barack Obama has warned there is work still to be done as Northern Ireland celebrates the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement.
Due to visit Ulster for the G8 conference this summer, President Obama made the remarks in a statement issued via the White House.
The statement issued to worldwide media said: “As Easter approaches, we mark the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
“The people of Northern Ireland and their leaders have traveled a great distance over the past fifteen years. Step by step, they have traded bullets for ballots, destruction and division for dialogue and institutions, and pointed the way toward a shared future for all.
“There is urgent work still to be done – and there will be more tests to come. There are still those few who prefer to look backward rather than forward – who prefer to inspire hate rather than hope.
“The many who have brought Northern Ireland this far must keep rejecting their call. From building cross-community trust to bringing opportunity to hard-to-reach communities in Belfast and beyond, every citizen and every political party needs to work together in service of true and lasting peace and prosperity.
“And at every step of the way, the United States will be there as a friend and partner. That is the message I will carry with me when I visit Northern Ireland and attend the G-8 Summit in June.”
President Obama also declared that Northern Ireland’s people can act as role models to the rest of the world.
He added: “On behalf of the American people, I salute the people and leaders of Northern Ireland and the model they have given to others struggling toward peace and reconciliation around the world.
“I pledge our continued support for their efforts to build a strong society, a vibrant economy, and an enduring peace.”
A separate statement from US secretary of state John Kerry also warned the progress made by the Good Friday agreement was unfinished.
In his statement, Kerry said: “The progress made in Northern Ireland is significant and inspiring but the promise foreseen in the agreement is incomplete.
“The 15th anniversary of the agreement should serve as a call to action to consolidate the gains of the last 15 years.
“This is an appropriate moment for all parties to rededicate themselves to achieving a shared future and to healing the divisions of the past.
“A spirit of cooperation and an unwavering commitment to the rule of law are essential to achieving these goals and a necessary condition for unlocking the full economic potential of Northern Ireland.”
The Good Friday Agreement was signed on April 10th 1998. It established the Northern Ireland Assembly and provided the political framework to advance the Northern Irish peace process.
President Obama recently discussed the peace process with Irish PM Enda Kenny and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness during the official St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Washington.
The mystery of Irish and Celtic symbols (PHOTOS)