By Brendan McDaid
The Dalai Lama has spoken of his joy at the renewed efforts for peace in Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the Guildhall in Londonderry yesterday, the exiled Tibetan leader said that the last time he left Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement he felt pained after meeting victims' families.
The Buddhist spiritual leader added, however, that he would be leaving with much more optimism for the future here.
"Since my last visit certainly there was a development, now there's a new government. People previously fighting each other have now come together and are now sharing responsibility. That is a wonderful development," he said.
He also said that the resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland could have lessons for other parts of the world, particularly the Middle East.
And he called Derryman Richard Moore, founder of the Children In Crossfire charity, his "hero" and talked at length about Mr Moore's meeting with the soldier who blinded him with a rubber bullet in 1972 when he was 10 years old.
Praising his forgiveness, and holding his hand at a Press conference in Derry, the Dalai Lama also said: "He is my hero friend, whether he believes it or not, I don't know. He is really a wonderful son of humanity."
The Nobel Peace PrizeLaureate is in the city to speak at a two-day conference organised by Mr Moore's charity.
The conference at the Millennium Forum focuses on issues around the rights of children, gender inequality, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It also emerged that Children In Crossfire will benefit when one of the greatest rivalries in football history is renewed, with legends Pele and Gordon Banks agreeing to manage teams to raise funds for the charity.
Mr Moore said Mr Mullan is helping arrange a major fundraising match which will probably be played in England next year.