Ending the Troubles: Ireland’s churches defend Agreement

The “Good Friday Agreement” that brought an end to the  late 20th-century Troubles in Northern Ireland needs further work.

The Agreement committed Northern Ireland’s political parties to resolving political issues by democratic and peaceful methods.

Speaking on the Agreement’s 20th anniversary, the Catholic Church Primates of All Ireland say it “took a great effort to achieve”.

It “will equally take risk and leadership at all levels to maintain,” they say.

The Agreement included establishing a power-sharing government involving parties representing the majority Protestant population and minority Catholic population and removing border security between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It also led to decommissioning the Irish Republican Army and Protestant paramilitary organisations’ weapons.

The Agreement explicitly rejects using or threatening violence and emphasises the principles of “partnership, equality and mutual respect” as the “basis of relationships”.

Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, and his Church of Ireland counterpart, Archbishop Richard Clarke, say the Agreement has continuing potential to transform society and life for all.

“Nothing remotely its equal has been outlined then or since,” they said.

They both pray the Agreement’s anniversary will help “rekindle a spirit of opportunity, healing and hope for lasting peace” which they say is needed more than ever.

They are calling on all people of good will to be ambassadors of reconciliation, helping to rebuild trust and mutual respect.

Martin and Clarke are concerned about a political impasse in Northern Ireland that has continued since January 2017.

It concerns the collapse of the power-sharing government in Stormont, which collapsed over a row between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin.

They are challenging the institutions to ask themselves “is it because the principles and structure of the Good Friday Agreement have failed us, or rather, is it that we have together failed to make the most of those supportive principles which it offered?”

They paid tribute to the efforts of the international community who not only invested significantly in the process which led to the Agreement, but who “have remained alongside us as our partners for peace.”



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