The Good Friday Agreement was signed 22 years ago today

The Good Friday Agreement was signed 22 years ago today

LEADERS AND parties from across the entire political spectrum have taken time away from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to mark the 22nd anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. 

The peace accord signed on April 10, 1998 brought an end to three decades of violence in Northern Ireland and remains in place to this day. 

This year’s anniversary holds some special significance too for the simple fact it falls on Good Friday, as it did when first signed some 22 years ago.  

In previous years, a variety of events would be held to mark the occasion but with the public required to remain indoors and away from large gatherings, this year’s anniversary has been more subdued. 

That hasn’t prevented prominent figures and parties across the region from taking to social media to acknowledge one of the most important dates in Northern Ireland’s recent history. 

Northern Ireland’s Joint Head of Government and Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill said: “Over the past 22 years the island of Ireland has been transformed as a result of the peace process, of which the Good Friday Agreement 1998 is the foundation stone.  

“It’s a precious gift to everyone, and moving forward we must give our people hope and our young people opportunity.” 

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith paid tribute to DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill, Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken, Alliance's Naomi Long and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood along with their respective political parties for "taking the leap to return to power-sharing" by getting Stormont back up and running “and returning all the Good Friday Agreement institutions". 

Ireland’s Tánaiste, Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney also took time out of addressing the current pandemic to mark a huge day for both sides of the border. 

He tweeted: “Good Friday Agreement, 10th April 1998: 22 years ago today, on another Good Friday, the foundation for a better future for this island was laid. It is the foundation we still rely on today as we work together, North & South, to face new challenges. #Peace #COVID19 #Brexit" 

Ireland’s Minister for Justice and Equality added: “This day in 1998 the historic Good Friday Agreement was signed. 22 years later it’s still a work in progress. Recalling the spirit of the GFA & in the true spirit of Easter let’s all work together to overcome adversity.” 

The US Consulate in Belfast also issued a message of support for the region. 

“On this 22nd anniversary of the Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement, we mark the courage of those who chose hope and the promise of the future," they said. 

“Now, more than ever, we believe in the strength of community in Northern Ireland, and stand with you.” 

Not every message was entirely positive though with Gerry Adams marking the anniversary by hitting out at the leaders of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael for "refusing to recognise the rights of the Sinn Fein electorate" in the formation of a government in much the same way unionist parties did during discussions over the Good Friday Agreement. 

“So, so much for the lessons of history. Having said that the Agreement has served all of us well. There are aspects of it, important dimensions of it, that both governments have failed to honour, but most especially the British government," he said. 

“We want to bring the Agreement to its complete fruition. For now it’s worth looking forward as well as looking backwards. 

So thanks to everyone who played any role in putting together the Good Friday Agreement, from this island, from our neighbouring island, from across the world and from the USA in particular. 

“And to all of those people who have kept the peace process alive since then. Let’s keep on the road we are on. 

“Let’s keep building peace and let’s make sure that all of the elements of the Good Friday Agreement are honoured in the time ahead and not undermined as Brexit threatens to do; not subvert it as Brexit threatens to do."