Tag Archives: mo mowlam

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:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Ian Swales MP’s maiden speech

This is the last of four maiden speeches presented here this weekend for the interest and comments of our readers.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my first speech to the House. I congratulate all those who have also made their first speeches today. I am very struck, and a bit awestruck, by the erudition that they have all displayed. As the Member for Redcar, I am proud to be the first Liberal to represent the area since 1923 and also very pleased to hear this afternoon’s debate about potential voting system changes, which might do …

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