LibLink: Christine Jardine We must not take peace in Northern Ireland for granted

As Joe Biden visits Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Christine Jardine writes in the Scotsman that we should not take the huge step forward to peace for granted.

She started by looking at how we got to the agreement:

Progress towards the Belfast Good Friday agreement had begun shortly before Christmas 1993 with the Downing Street Declaration. The joint statement by Prime Minister John Major and Taoiseach Albert Reynolds stated it was the right of the people of Northern Ireland to decide between the UK or a United Ireland. It also acknowledged the importance of mutual consent in the north and south of the island in resolving issues.

In the following five years, there were ceasefires, cross-party talks and false starts before that historic announcement on April 10, 1998, which in essence contained three basic principles. They are: the parity of esteem of both communities, the principle of consent underpinning Northern Ireland’s constitutional status, and the birth-right of the people of Northern Ireland to identify and be accepted as British or Irish, or both, and to hold both British and Irish citizenship.

And she highlighted the dramatic reduction in loss of life and injury that has followed in the ensuing quarter of a century:

In the 25 years before the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, there were more than 3,000 deaths and 47,000 people were injured as a result of the conflict. Since 1998, there have been fewer than 200 deaths. Still too many, of course, but a reflection of changed times.

Current circumstances, she says, mean that we still have to work to maintain this peace.

In the immediate aftermath of Brexit, we saw violence return to the streets of Northern Ireland as the vagaries of our EU exit cast doubt on what it would mean for the Good Friday Agreement. The most recent devolved elections in Northern Ireland were in 2022, but the elected assembly has still to sit. Its predecessor had been suspended from 2017 until 2020.

As this anniversary approached, Westminster was keen, like others, to pay tribute to the success of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and those who achieved it. But in the immediate wake of the dispute with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocols and the new Windsor Agreement, there was also a very real sense of caution. We have seen the threat level increase recently and the re-emergence of old tensions on the streets and in political debate.

It is as incumbent on all of us in positions of influence now, as it was on those in power 25 years ago, to do whatever we can to protect what is an ongoing process. The Belfast Good Friday Agreement was perhaps above all else a statement of belief in the ability of people to mend decades of grievance and to forgive.

You can read the whole article here.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary in print, on air or online.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in LibLink.
Advert

One Comment

  • Peter Hirst 17th Apr '23 - 4:36pm

    What N. Ireland needs is the infrastructure to deal with the coming vote on Irish reunification. This includes a strong human rights agenda and systems that allow free trade between it and GB regardless of the vote. Ideally nothing should change for the people of Ulster if reunification happens, at least nothing adverse for the protestant community.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • David Blake
    I've just watched today's Politics Live. Yet again it's had a Conservative candidate (former MP) and a former Conservative adviser on a 4 person panel. They s...
  • John Waller
    @Joseph “The purpose of NATO is the defense of Europe”. Yes, so why does Stoltenberg want a NATO office in Tokyo. “Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only a so...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Martin Gray, "Unless that right is reciprocated why would should any Greek national residing in the UK be given the same right ?" It's probab...
  • Simon Banks
    Like Mark, I remember 2010. What struck me about that, was that once Cleggmania had given us a big boost, we seemed to have no strategy to exploit it. If there ...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Catherine, It's all law not just some law. This is how the EU itself puts it: "The principle of the primacy (also referred to as ‘precedence’ o...