ONE of Tony Blair's achievements as Prime Minister has been to steer a road to peace in Northern Ireland.

It has always been a desire, but the hope of achieving stability has always depended upon the most unlikely becoming possible.

Bringing together Republicanism and Unionism and sharing power in government, strengthening political, social and economic structures and cementing better relationships between Belfast and Dublin has been a long and twisting road.

But it seems there is real hope that respect and honesty can bring about a lasting peace. To see Ian Paisley sitting alongside Gerry Adams was momentous, but there needs to be the continuing dialogue referred to by Ireland's premier, Bertie Aherne.

About two years ago during a visit I made to Londonderry, I was reminded of the desire and wishes of people to get on with tackling social and economic issues.

While respecting history and cultures, there was a hope and belief that the strength and passion they had for the future could be achieved without the obstacles of sectarianism.

Ireland has many characteristics that bode well for the future. There is a desire to work together, with vision, energy and an agenda for change. Lets hope this can be sustained.

Bernie Walsh, Coxhoe, Durham.