Good Friday Agreement Anniversary Marked at the NI Assembly
Session: Session currently unavailable
Date: 07 April 2023
Reference: SO 09/22/23
The 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement has been celebrated at the Northern Ireland Assembly with a significant event hearing from some of the key people involved in person including former Irish Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.
The Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey, told the 180 guests who filled the Great Hall that the Agreement was “A fundamental shift from the tragedy and turmoil of the previous thirty years.”
Speaker Maskey who himself is one of the few remaining MLAs from the first cohort elected in 1998 said the agreement, which has the elected Assembly at its’ heart, was “an honourable compromise;”
“It contained challenges for everyone but it did not diminish any of the deeply held political views of those present. Nor did it mean that the future would be easy. But it was a new beginning. A new beginning for this society and a new basis for us all to work through our differences collectively. Most of all it was a fundamental shift from the tragedy and turmoil of the previous thirty years.” Mr Maskey told the audience.
Amongst those who shared their recollections of the negotiations to agree the GFA were former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Lord Empey of the Ulster Unionist Party, former NI Assembly deputy First Minister Mark Durkan of the SDLP, former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, Billy Hutchinson of the Progressive Unionist Party, and Professor Monica McWilliams, formerly of the Women’s Coalition.
The audience also heard contributions via video delivered by the GFA talks Chair, Senator George Mitchell, former Alliance Party Leader and former Assembly Speaker, Lord Alderdice and Lord Murphy, who as Paul Murphy MP was Minister for Political Development in the Northern Ireland Office 25 years ago.
The Speaker also welcomed and chatted with the families of some of the key figures in politics who have passed away since the agreement, including representatives of the families of former First Minister Lord Trimble, David Ervine, former deputy First Ministers Seamus Mallon and Martin McGuinness.
In his concluding remarks, Speaker Alex Maskey reflected on how central the Assembly is to the successful working of the Good Friday Agreement:
“This Assembly is and should be the heartbeat of the Good Friday Agreement and the negotiations which followed it. If the Assembly is not operating, it impacts on the rest of the institutions and the progress we can and should be making. Participants from 1998 have been the focus of our ceremony today but we are also joined by many of our current Members of the Assembly.
“Those of us from the 1998 generation are very much passing the baton on to you to deal with not just our historic issues but with building for our future,” said Mr Maskey.
Youth Assembly Members read the ‘Declaration of Support’ from the Good Friday Agreement. Music at the event was provided by children from the Belfast School of Performing Arts and Northern Ireland based singer songwriter Dana Masters.
Note to Editors:
- The Event was shared with broadcasters live.
- Pool pics were taken by Press Eye
For media enquiries please contact:
The Communications Office
Northern Ireland Assembly