“We must not forget that the Irish peace process is a success story. Widely recognised and celebrated as a model for conflict resolution. Providing hope to those around the world that peace is possible.”
By John Finucane MP
This year we celebrate 25 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
A momentous day that cemented a promise of peace, hope, and reconciliation for everyone on these islands.
The internationally celebrated peace agreement marked a defining moment in history and helped sow the seeds for a brighter, more peaceful future.
It was a seismic achievement and arguably one of the greatest achievements of the British Labour party in government. And, at this juncture, we must pay tribute to those within the Labour Party, and wider trade union movement in Britain, who helped to realise the agreement.
We must not forget that the Irish peace process is a success story. Widely recognised and celebrated as a model for conflict resolution. Providing hope to those around the world that peace is possible.
There is now a new generation, who did not live through the conflict of their parents and grandparents, finding a voice for itself.
As we look back with pride at just how far we have all come, and all that has been achieved, we also look forward with hope, ambition, and opportunity for the next 25 years.
Creating jobs, seizing economic opportunities, and continuing to drive real change in our society for the next generation should be the joint mission for us all in political leadership as move forward.
The new deal between Brussels and London gives us a huge competitive advantage as a gateway to Europe for the sale of goods in the British and EU markets unimpeded and in fact, we have circumstances that are the envy of economies across the world.
We now have unique access to trade in the world’s biggest economic markets – that is an opportunity that cannot be missed.
We must use this opportunity to attract investment, create jobs for our young people, and together, deliver the change people demand and rightfully deserve.
Peace and economic opportunity are all connected, and the onus is on the two governments, political parties, particularly the DUP, to get back around the Executive table with the rest of us to deliver for the people.
We need a renewed commitment from all political leaders that we will work together, that we will share power together and that we have a government that will work in the interests of everyone.
Change is coming. More and more people are looking to a new future for all the people of this island.
Any party that wishes to lead a British government needs to be prepared for this. The conversation on a new Ireland is thriving across all communities on the island of Ireland.
Reunification represents a huge opportunity for all the people of our island, a better, fairer, and more prosperous Ireland.
Now is the time to prepare. And to do that, we need an Irish government that is proactive in delivering those preparations. That is the sensible thing to do.
We need a Citizens Assembly to allow for the airing of views and ideas on what a United Ireland will look like, so people know what they are going to vote on.
The entire Brexit mess has demonstrated in no uncertain terms how not to manage a constitutional change.
While much of this work will be done in Ireland, there is a role for parallel discussions in Britain on what the future looks like.
In the spirit of Good Friday, we must collectively redouble our efforts to make politics work. There can be no indulgence of those who seek to deny democracy or delay progress.
The public have spoken in two elections and delivered resounding mandates for politics that works for all and for fully functioning political institutions doing their job.
Michelle O’Neill should be leading a restored Assembly and Executive as First Minister for All and locally elected ministers working together to tackle the crippling cost-of-living crisis, to fix the health service, to deliver for communities and protect public services from cruel and savage Tory cuts from London.
The opportunities of the British-EU deal need to be seized. The north has a competitive advantage that is the envy of economies the world over through the unique ability to trade in both the British and EU markets.
Failure to utilise that advantage through a local economy minister because one party won’t turn up for work is not acceptable.
It is time for the economic interests of our people to be prioritised over the DUP’s internal divisions.
The Executive must be restored immediately so we can start to use the Protocol to deliver prosperity for all our people.
The Good Friday Agreement was a significant chapter in our shared history. But it is past time to begin the next chapter. We are ready to deliver on that work today.
- “Good Friday 25 Years On – An Agreement for a shared future” – Sinn Féin’s annual fringe meeting at the British Labour Party Conference 2023 takes place at 7PM Sunday 8 October at The Sefton Suite, Adelphi Hotel, Ranelagh St, Liverpool L3 5UL
- Speakers include: Michelle O’Neill MLA, Sinn Féin Vice President and First Minister Designate, Hillary Benn MP, Labour Party MP and Shadow Secretary of State, Baroness Angela Smith, Labour leader in the House of Lords; John Finucane MP, Sinn Féin MP for North Belfast. All welcome.
- John Finucane is the Sinn Féin MP for Belfast North, you can follow him on Twitter/X, Instagram and Facebook.
- This article was originally published in the Labour Outlook Autumn ’23 edition – you can read the full publication here.