Irish Republican News · April 12, 2013
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Fifteen years since Good Friday Agreement
Fifteen years since Good Friday Agreement

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The 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement has prompted a wave of political commentary and a fresh debate on whether the promises made at the time of the agreement have been honoured.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams pointed out that aspects of the 1998 agreement had never been implemented. In particular, he said, a truth and reconciliation process was still needed.

But almost all of the statements made to mark the anniversary were glowing. Former British prime minister Tony Blair said he believed that ‘Northern Ireland’ would not return to “the times of the Troubles”.

“Because of the will of the people in Northern Ireland that historic Good Friday signalled the start of a peaceful future,” he said.

Blair, who now styles himself as an international peace ambassador, claimed that the Good Friday Agreement “brings hope for other conflicts - from Africa to the Middle East - that a situation that once seemed so bleak can be resolved”.

British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed the GFA had been a “truly momentous event in the history of Northern Ireland”. He said that in 1998 “people had decided overwhelmingly that the future would only ever be determined by democracy and consent, never by violence”.

The SDLP’s Joe Byrne described the Good Friday Agreement as “the biggest achievement in modern Irish politics” and paid tribute to the “magnificent SDLP negotiating team” led by former SDLP leader John Hume.

But Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt accused Sinn Féin and the DUP of failing to deliver on the achievements of 1998 -- when his party and the nationalist SDLP were the main proponents of the deal.

The DUP bitterly opposed the Good Friday pact and continues to refuse to abide by it. In 2006, it negotiated a new Agreement to provide a so-called “triple lock” on the union with Britain, undermine the nascent cross-border links and stymie the implementation of other outstanding elements of the 1998 deal.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams said those outstanding issues had to be resolved. He also said that the promises of the Good Friday Agreement “for a new society in which all citizens are respected, and where fairness and justice and equality are the guiding principles”, had to be advanced.

The following is the full text of his statement:

“The Good Friday Agreement came after many years of hard work and culminated in long night negotiations in Castle Buildings at Stormont.

“Internationally regarded as a successful example of conflict resolution, Agreement represents an historic compromise between conflicting political positions, following decades of conflict.

“With stable power-sharing and all-Ireland institutions enjoying the support of the community, the North, in particular has been transformed in the intervening period.

“A key difference between the Agreement and previous government-sponsored initiatives, all of which failed, is that the principle of equality is at its core.

“The power sharing structures have ensured the checks and balances necessary to prevent the political abuses and discrimination of the past.

“The Agreement has secured remarkable progress in the areas of policing and justice, demilitarisation and arms, discrimination and sectarianism, equality and human rights, and the Irish language.

“It also provides for a Border Poll to address the issue of Partition.

“Of course, any agreement is just a piece of paper. It needs political will to implement it and makes its promise a reality.

“Further negotiations since 1998 have seen unionist political leaders seeking to minimise the implementation of the Agreement. As a result, and because of the failure of both governments to fulfil their obligations, outstanding issues remain.

“These include a Bill of Rights for the North which would offer protections for the most vulnerable and respect the diversity of our community.

“Other outstanding issues include an all-island Charter of Rights, establishment of the North-South Consultative Forum, introduction of an Acht na Gaeilge (Irish Language Act) and resolution of the issue of those people still ‘on the run’ as a result of the conflict.

“The British Government has failed to act on its Weston Park commitment to hold an independent inquiry into the killing of human rights lawyer, Pat Finucane. It has allowed a securocrat agenda to continue to abuse human rights -- most clearly in the continued detention of Marian Price and Martin Corey.

“The people of this island need a genuine process of national reconciliation. This includes a victim-centered truth and reconciliation process.

“Sinn Féin believes that the best way of doing this is through the establishment of an Independent International Truth Commission. The two governments, former combatants and those in leadership across Ireland and Britain need to part of this. There can be no hierarchy of victims.

“Fifteen years on there can be no going back. The tiny minorities who want to cling to the past must be rejected. Sectarianism must be tackled and ended.

“The promise of the Good Friday Agreement for a new society in which all citizens are respected, and where fairness and justice and equality are the guiding principles, has to be advanced.”

© 2013 Irish Republican News