Belfast/Good Friday Agreement: 25th Anniversary

It was very exciting to observe that Parliament was celebrating the Good Friday Agreement on Thursday at the end of their current period. There was a debate which was set out by Chris Heaton-Harris who is the Conservative MP for Daventry and he is the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland which was a role he was appointed by Liz Truss in September las year. There were a number of MPs who participated including Peter Kyle who is our Hove Labour MP who is the Shadow Secretary for Northern Ireland and his first few words are listed below. The whole of his text can be obtained from here along with all of the other MPs. Prior to Peter speaking Chris Heaton-Harris stated

I know that I have omitted many other names involved in the journey to the agreement, but I also know that the whole House, including Peter Kyle, will join me today in recognising their collective achievement.

One of the other MPs who spoke was Simon Hoare who is the Conservative MP for North Dorset and he is the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. He referred to our Brighton City when he stated his comments following after Peter’s statement. His reference to Brighton is below:

We need to remind ourselves that this is not just an island of Ireland story or commemoration but is relevant to all our islands. The troubles that were unleashed brought mayhem and death that also shattered lives on the mainland, and we should never forget Brighton, Manchester, Warrington and the Baltic Exchange, to name just a few. This is such an important story in our nation’s history.

The day when the murders took place in Brighton I was travelling over to Lancing to work and I recall hearing about it that day through our business. It was a very significant impact for a number of Conservative MPs who were visiting Brighton for their Annual Conference event. So thank you for raising that Simon. And here is the starting point of the comment from Peter Kyle who is the Labour MP who focuses on Northern Ireland for his Party.

It is a pleasure to follow the Secretary of State, who made a thoughtful, considered and important speech from which we can all benefit. Let me also thank him for putting forward the debate in Government time: that is much appreciated by Members throughout the House.

Issues that affect Northern Ireland are often bipartisan, and I think the spirit of today’s debate should reflect that approach. Tony Blair, for example, was always keen —and still is—to stress the extraordinary work done by John Major before him to provide a platform for the peace process that was to follow. This debate should allow us time to recognise them, and the other giants who worked on the agreement. There are many lessons we can learn from them today.

Twenty-five years is a very significant milestone. An entire generation has grown up since the people of Northern Ireland chose an end to violence. The Secretary of State referred to the event in Speaker’s House attended by representatives of the Youth Parliament from across Northern Ireland: they were not just a credit to young people in Northern Ireland, or to the Youth Parliament; they were a credit to all of us.

As the conflict recedes into the distance, it might be easy to forget how much real progress has been made in that time. This is a real blessing. Children growing up today in Northern Ireland have not experienced and will not experience the routine violence that scarred communities for so long. However, we can never forget that more than 3,500 people lost their lives in that part of our United Kingdom. People and communities were exhausted by the conflict. It is one of the Labour party’s proudest legacies that we, in government, were able to seize the moment and find a way forward. In April 1998, leaders from across political divides and communities decided that a new future was possible. That future was only there to grasp because a generation believed in their hearts that radical change was not just possible, but was deliverable in that moment.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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