25 Years: The People’s Process
The 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement sees Northern Ireland as a place transformed. We have significantly moved beyond armed conflict to a society in which those who refuse to be defined by traditional identities now number almost one third. A society that is characterised by economic success and prosperity for many. Northern Ireland is a global leader in FinTech and Cyber-security, a £1bn film and television industry has been created from scratch, and we can boast that nowadays we even have a space industry. These are signs of the people’s process and their efforts to build sustainable and better futures.
Yet, behind these success stories there is still much left to be done. Too many of our citizens have been left behind with no route out of poverty, homelessness, disability and chronic ill-health. Those most reliant on government to deliver the public services that transform lives have been badly let down. These are signs of the failure of the political process that harms the people.
Agreement 25 celebrations, just like those for the 20th anniversary, take place without a Government sitting in Stormont. The problems this causes are clear as health waiting lists grow longer, infrastructure priorities languish and where solutions are staring us in the face but cannot be implemented, such as affordable childcare that would relieve workforce shortages.
It is an inescapable fact that we are now a society unrecognisable to the one I grew up in. The violence and fear my generation learned to normalise is now evident only in history class – and these are the facts that matter.
Yet, the Northern Ireland of 2023 as portrayed through our media, is one of negativity and division that I do not recognise. My Northern Ireland is populated with bright, positive and ingenuous people, determined to make this place the best it can be for everyone who calls it home. The best opportunity we have to create health and social prosperity is through using the power we have to govern ourselves, through devolution.
None of this or the potential to deliver better outcomes would have been possible without the Good Friday Agreement – so here’s to its 25th birthday, and a sincere wish for many happy and continued returns.View Issue 489