The Good Friday Agreement was signed 23 years ago today

The Good Friday Agreement was signed 23 years ago today

LEADERS AND parties from across the political spectrum have stopped to mark the 23rd 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.

In previous years, events would be held to mark the occasion but with Ireland and Northern Ireland still in lockdown, 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 the history of both countries.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin used the anniversary to warn that Northern Ireland must not “spiral back to that dark place of sectarian murders and political discord”. 

His comments came in the wake of yet another of night of unrest in the region. 

Martin said: “Perhaps its most visible success is that a whole generation of young people have grown up not knowing or experiencing the violence that accompanied the Troubles. 

“We owe it to the Agreement generation and indeed future generations not to spiral back to that dark place of sectarian murders and political discord. 

“There is now a particular onus on those of us who currently hold the responsibility of political leadership to step forward and play our part and ensure that this cannot happen. 

“I am determined to work with the British Government, the Executive and all political parties to protect the Good Friday Agreement, in all its parts.” 

The island of Ireland has truly become a completely different place in the last 23 years, because of the Good Friday Agreement,” he added. 

The Taoiseach recalled how the agreement ushered in “a new era of peace and mutual respect – grounded in the principle of consent, peaceful politics, democratic institutions, reconciliation and co-operation”. 

He added: “The Good Friday Agreement also introduced a new ethos of tolerance, equality and mutual respect to underpin the new institutional landscape. 

“The island of Ireland has truly become a completely different place in the last 23 years, because of the Good Friday Agreement. 

“This has been a period of building trust, developing relationships, changing attitudes, and improving the lives of people on all parts of the island. 

“It is important that we remind ourselves how far we have come and to continue to be profoundly grateful, to all of those at community level, who continue to work quietly every day and behind the scenes, for peace and reconciliation.” 

Elsewhere, the Tanaiste Leo Varadkar reflected on the agreement in a statement posted to Twitter.  

He wrote: “On this day, the 23rd anniversary of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, we remember all that has been achieved & all that can still be achieved as we honour its principles – peace, consent, respect for different identities, change by democratic means only, co-operation N/S & E/W.” 

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney also marked the anniversary, reflecting on how it served as a timely reminder of the responsibilities set out in the agreement. 

He said: “It continues to give us the foundations we needed for stronger relationships in Northern Ireland, North/South and on these islands. 

“This has been a difficult and worrying week, but this anniversary comes as a reminder of the responsibilities we all have, as well as what politics, determination and dialogue can achieve. 

“That is the spirit we need now.” 

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill tweeted: “Twenty-three years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement we must deliver on the promises of 1998 to a new generation of our young people. 

“We must give them hope and opportunities. It is time to bring people together. To keep the momentum of peace moving forward.” 

The Northern Ireland Secretary for State Brandon Lewis also posted a message in two parts on the social media platform. 

23 years ago, Northern Ireland made a commitment to peace through dialogue, and turning away from violence. The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions remains the only way forward to ensure peace and prosperity for all in NI,” he wrote. 

It is incumbent on all of us to support Northern Ireland in leaving its divisive past behind, and continuing instead to look ahead to all the opportunities of its future.” 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has yet to post a message reflecting on the anniversary though Labour Party leader Keir Starmer tweeted: “’A day when agreement and accommodation took the place of difference and division’.” 

“Today we reflect on those principles and the profound responsibility we have to safeguard the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and protect it into the future.”