Tag Archives: good friday agreement

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.

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Good Friday Agreement anniversary reminds us that politics should be about healing divisions

I grew up at a time when every week had a grim story of loss of life from Northern Ireland. I remember being inspired as a 9 year old by the efforts of Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for their efforts in trying to bring about peace. It was so disappointing when their efforts failed.  I had skin in this game as my favourite Auntie and Uncle lived there – and still do along with my cousins and cousin’s children.

It was another 22 years before we’d see a stable peace there, and it was another woman, the incredible and much missed Secretary of State Mo Mowlam who put her heart and soul into bringing it about.

I remember being on the edge of my seat that Easter weekend, hoping for the breakthrough that eventually came. It was barely a year into Tony Blair’s Labour Government. A lot of the ground work had been laid by the previous administration. I remember Paddy Ashdown paying sincere tribute to John Major’s leadership in getting people talking to each other.

I thought it might be good to look back on the exchanges in the Commons when the agreement was first discussed in Parliament.

Mo Mowlam spoke first, announcing the deal:

This is a unique agreement born of a unique set of negotiations that involved Unionists, nationalists, republicans and loyalists around the same talks table. This is a situation in which, although compromises have been made, everyone can be a winner. Everyone’s political and cultural identity is respected and protected by this deal. Northern Ireland politics, for so long, has been seen as a zero sum game. This agreement demonstrates the potential for the people of Northern Ireland to move beyond that, into a new type of politics in which everyone can gain. This agreement represents a sensible, fair and workable way forward for both communities.

I should like to pay a particular tribute today to the negotiating teams of all the parties involved. I should also like to pay tribute to a group who, though often vilified, have worked for many years to bring about this agreement, often at personal risk to themselves and their families—the civil servants in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

It is important, when we are talking about all the positive developments, that at the same time we do not lose sight of the terrible price that has been paid by the victims of violence and their families. No amount of progress in the search for lasting peace will bring back those loved ones who have been lost, or take away the pain felt, day in and day out, by their families. I hope that Ken Bloomfield’s victims commission, which we have set up and which I hope will report later this month, will provide us with some practical suggestions as to how we can best recognise the suffering endured by the victims of violence and their families.

Even at such a dramatic moment, she showed her heart and sense of fun. Our then leader Paddy Ashdown opened his comments with:

The Secretary of State will have received enough plaudits, well justified and well deserved, from enough quarters not to need me to add to them.

She responded:

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Carmichael: Threat to leave ECHR risks breaking Good Friday Agreement

Writing in The House yesterday, Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem Home Affairs and Northern Ireland spokesperson, said:

In less than 24 hours Boris Johnson has gone from pretending to be a defender of the Good Friday Agreement, to threatening to remove the legal underpinnings of peace in Northern Ireland altogether.

Carmichael’s comment came as the prime minister and ministers dropped heavy hints that if the law were to get in the way of Rwanda deportation flights, the government could withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Good Friday Agreement expressly requires the United Kingdom to have the Convention directly enforceable in Northern Ireland.

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19 September 2019 – today’s press releases

Further education funding squeeze set to continue

Responding to today’s report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, revealing that further education spending per student remains 7% lower than in 2010 in real terms, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Layla Moran MP said:

Further education and sixth-form colleges have been left underfunded and unloved. Today’s report shows that the Conservatives’ one-off handout is far short of what is need to reverse historic cuts. Colleges teach more specialist subjects in smaller classes, so why do we pay them less per pupil than secondary schools?

Liberal Democrats demand better for our young people. That’s why,

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