The people who have suffered the most in Northern Ireland’s troubled past are often also the people who care most deeply about the future peace.

That is the message from Rev. David Latimer who will speak at the latest Louis Leonard Memorial Talk on Peace and Reconciliation at St Patrick’s GAA clubhouse Donagh this Sunday, February 9.

Rev. Latimer is the author of the book “A Leap of Faith: How Martin McGuinness and I worked for Peace” and will give his talk at 3pm with a book signing afterwards.

After 32 years as Minister at the First Derry Presbyterian Church Rev Latimer retired from day to day ministry at the end of last month. His friendship and work with the late Martin McGuinness has been described as ‘truly inspirational’ and in an interview with the Impartial Reporter he said he was “delighted” to be asked by Betty Leonard, the widow of the late Louis Leonard who was murdered in 1972 at his butcher’s shop in Derrylin.

“I was delighted to be asked. It was a lovely invite from Betty. She wrote me a letter and complimented me on the book I had written which was a very generous comment. I am really looking forward to the event,” Rev. Latimer explained, before going on to speak in glowing terms in relation to the work that Mrs. Leonard is doing for peace: “Betty has of course had her own pain and lives with it.

“And of course, a lady like Betty will never forget what happened to her and a bit of herself died when her husband was taken from her. And yet it is often people who have suffered the most who are most likely to work and see what can be done to make a better future.”

Rev. Latimer has been a consistent critic of the political inertia that gripped Northern Ireland over a three year period prior to the restoration of Stormont last month: “I think the political paralysis has been very bad for Northern Ireland. It is worrying. So much has happened in the three years.

“We need only look at Brexit, everyone had a voice, Scotland, England, Wales, Dublin yet Northern Ireland was voiceless,” he said, although he welcomed the recent return to work of our MLAs and said the focus should be on the future: “I think the penny has finally dropped with politicians. They have finally realised that people have been crying out for political leadership. I took the activities of nurses to raise a flag for the NHS and the unacceptable conditions, and that can be replicated across other areas such as education too. Politicians need to shift their focus though from looking back to looking forward.”

Rev. Latimer said that people needed to find the right balance between remember the past and looking toward the future and he said that people like Betty Leonard was showing the way.

“There was a piece of graffiti that surfaced on Montgomery Street in Belfast that said something like, “A nation that has both eyes looking back is blind. A nation that has one eye on the future is wise”. Betty Leonard has one eye on the future, despite the pain of her past.

“And I think that is the lesson that we need to take from people like Betty, that balance between memory and hope.

“I think as a people we need to work at ways of working together. Together is a great place to be. We can bring the sun out on the future by staying together and making sure that peace is top of our agenda,” he said.