The Good Friday Agreement still has the potential to ‘transform society and life for all of us’, the Catholic Primate of All Ireland and his Anglican counterpart have said.
In a statement marking the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, and the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, Richard Clarke, joined together ‘to give thanks to God for all that has been achieved in building peace since that historic moment’ when the agreement was signed on 10th April 1988.
Noting the aims of the Good Friday Agreement – addressing ‘contentious political problems in the context of decades of violence, divided communities and immense suffering and death’ – the Primates acknowledged the complexity of the document, adding that it was also controversial in places.
‘However, we are convinced that its explicit rejection of the use or threat of violence, together with its emphasis on the principles of ‘partnership, equality and mutual respect’ as the ‘basis of relationships’ within these islands, has continuing potential to transform society and life for all of us. Nothing remotely its equal has been outlined then or since,’ they added.
Thanking God for all that has been achieved since the signing of the document, the archbishops pointed out that the agreement offered a ‘framework for a new beginning’.
Insisting that Northern Ireland still presents many problems and opportunities for all of society to grasp, the archbishops said: ‘At this present impasse in political life in Northern Ireland it is worth asking ourselves: 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?
‘The peace we have today took a great effort to achieve; it will equally take risk, and leadership at all levels, to maintain,’ they added, while calling on people of good will to be ‘ambassadors of reconciliation’.
Picture: Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, right, holds a copy of the Good Friday Agreement with Martin McGuinness, left, as they speak to journalists in the Stormont parliament building in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 14th October 2002. (CNS photo/Darren Staples, Reuters).