Of all the voices I heard growing up in Belfast during the ‘troubles’, the only one which truly spoke to me was the European voice.
It spoke of mutual respect, understanding, equality and tolerance.
As the greatest peace project in modern history, the EU has used its influence throughout the years to protect the Northern Ireland peace process, through the unique PEACE Programme, which continues to this day.
After witnessing terrible scenes in Belfast as a BBC reporter, it was my involvement later, as Head of the EC Office, setting up the first EU PEACE Programme which brought me into contact with grass-roots peace-builders.
That became a life-long ambition, vocation which, as a founding member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, led to my election to the new NI Assembly set up after the Good Friday Agreement.
My experience, as Deputy Speaker of the NI Assembly, brought me into contact with all sides of the political divide and taught me the vital need to understand and respect difference.
It is that conviction which now takes me on a path to the European Parliament elections where I stand as an unapologetic supporter of the EU in Northern Ireland and campaigner for a People’s Vote with an option for the UK to Remain.
We should have as much pride in our EU citizenship as we do being ‘British or Irish or both’ - a privilege granted to Northern Ireland citizens by the Good Friday Agreement. Through their long-standing defence of citizens rights, the New Europeans have helped show the way.