The Ambition of Good Friday Peace-Makers Must Be Realised 25 Years on
Marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Labour Leader and Spokesperson for Northern Ireland Ivana Bacik TD has restated her party’s commitment to supporting restoration of the Stormont institutions, and to promoting peace and collaboration on the island of Ireland.
Deputy Bacik said,
“25 years since the historic Good Friday Agreement, we celebrate the achievement of political giants like John Hume, Seamus Mallon, Mo Mowlam and others. Their bravery, and that of so many across all communities, North and South, gave way for a peace which seemed impossible for many decades. While we celebrate their achievement today, we must restate our commitment to work for a lasting solution to the political friction which holds our island back to this day.
“In recent years, we have seen the cruel murder of so many individuals, including that of the young journalist, Lyra McKee. We also know of the continued discrimination and intimidation faced by members of both the unionist and nationalist community. The project to build a lasting peace is not over. The ambition of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement was greater than the political stasis and unrest which continues to imperil the hard-earned peace in Northern Ireland.
“The deadlock in Stormont must come to an end so that parliamentary democrats in the North can get to work to realise its full potential. It is the community which loses out when bad faith actors use cynical tactics to prolong that deadlock. The words of the late, great John Hume ring true: you cannot eat a flag. There must be space for all sides to articulate their views but the institutions of Northern Ireland must be allowed to function as they should.
“As a Connollyite republican, I believe that Labour – and the labour movement more broadly – have a crucial role to play in shaping the debate around the next phase in developing constitutional frameworks on this island.
“For us in Labour, unification means a unity of people before any unity of territory. We consider that a huge amount of careful preparatory work must be done in both jurisdictions on this island in advance of the holding of any referendum on unification; in order to ensure that people on both sides of the Border are clear on what it is they would be voting on; and in order that any new constitutional settlement would be accepted by all communities on the island. We must learn from the mistakes of Brexit, in order to avoid dangerous division or undermining of the peace process.
“Thus, the spirit and consent-based principles of the Good Friday Agreement must remain our guiding inspiration, and great generosity on all sides will be needed to make a success of whatever emerges over the next decade or so. Even to get to the point of holding a referendum on unification, an all-island citizens’ assembly, approved by the Stormont Assembly as well as the Oireachtas, must first be constituted, building on a process of consultation, to include White Paper and Green Paper mechanisms.
“As we mark this important anniversary, we might reflect that our collective task is a serious one which will require patience and consideration. It will involve profound change across the island. It will necessitate finding a way to accommodate differences and diversity. And it will involve, if we are to be successful, engagement by all sectors of society, including the trade union and labour movement, to ensure fairness and equality for all on the island of Ireland.”