10/04/2013

Cameron Hails Good Friday Agreement

Prime Minister David Cameron has praised the Good Friday Agreement to mark the 15th anniversary of the power-sharing deal.

"I have no doubt that the Agreement was a truly momentous event in the history of Northern Ireland," he said.

"After decades of division and terrorism, the Agreement heralded a new beginning for relationships within Northern Ireland, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and across these islands."

The agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, marked a turning point in the history of the Troubles, with politicians on both sides of the divide agreeing to power-sharing; an event which would have seemed impossible a decade earlier.

Many unionists were initially opposed to the Agreement, which saw nationalists and republicans given an equal say in Northern Irish society.

Paramilitary prisoners, including those who had been imprisoned for murder, were given early release.

"At this distance it is easy to forget just how painstaking and lengthy the process was that eventually led to the Agreement," Mr Cameron said.

"It involved many very difficult compromises and judgements, on all sides. The final product itself was not perfect; its implementation would take many more years to achieve. Yet it represented a massive step forward from what had gone before, a clear manifestation that politics and democracy would triumph over violence. For that, the architects of the Agreement, and those who displayed remarkable political courage in pushing it forward, deserve our thanks."

Mr Cameron continued: "We should not be shy about trumpeting the achievements of the Belfast Agreement and its successors at St Andrews and Hillsborough. There is still a strong tendency in Northern Ireland to view politics as a zero sum game, in which there are only winners and losers. That is not the case with the Belfast Agreement. I firmly believe that all parts of the community were winners on 10 April 1998.

"Fifteen years ago people decided overwhelmingly that the future would only ever be determined by democracy and consent, never by violence. The Belfast Agreement was the platform to build a new, confident, inclusive and modern Northern Ireland, whose best days lie ahead. While we have come a long way, much remains to be done."

(IT/CD)

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