Britain must continue to work with Europe to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement
Speaking at the British Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, Labour leader and spokesperson on Northern Ireland Ivana Bacik has urged continued protection of the Good Friday Agreement.
Deputy Bacik said:
“Earlier this year, we marked 25 years since the historic Good Friday Agreement was signed. We continue to 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, enabled the achievement of a peace which seemed impossible for many decades.
“There is no doubt that the European Union’s commitment to peace played an enormous role in achieving a political solution. As Britain gradually finds its way forward in navigating a new relationship with Europe, safeguarding peace on the Island of Ireland must be paramount.
“I urge Keir Starmer and his colleagues within the British Labour Party to restate their commitment to work for a lasting solution to the political friction which continues to hold our island back to this day.
“In recent years, despite the peace process, sadly we have seen the continued carrying out of violent attacks in the North, and the murder of the brave young journalist, Lyra McKee.
“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 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 the full potential of their communities. It is the communities which lose 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 democratic 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.
“Finally, I welcome the commitment by Keir Starmer that Labour would withdraw the disastrous legacy bill, the introduction of which has had a further destabilising impact on the relationship between our two islands.”