Brexit underscores importance of Good Friday Agreement

Issued 10 April 2018

Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has said that the impact Brexit will have underscores the importance of the settlement reached after decades of conflict, and the need for parties to work together to ensure a lasting peace.

Deputy Howlin said:

“We should remember that important though its structures are that the Good Friday Agreement was more than a legal and political agreement. It was a statement of hope and intention to put good the wrongs not just of thirty years but of a century. I believe that we have lost a great deal of that spirit if I may put it that way in recent years.

“In addition to putting the institutions back in place we need to ask what are the next steps that we can take to bridge the divide between our communities and all the GFA relationships. Brexit in this context is sadly another hurdle to overcome. That the peace and stability of Northern Ireland seems to matter so little to some people on both sides of the political divide in the UK is disappointing.

"The historic importance of the Good Friday Agreement will be tested in the year ahead as the UK prepares to exit the EU. Now more than ever, we need to see the restoration of devolution and the power sharing Executive in Northern Ireland.

"Solutions will be needed for the problems that will result from Brexit, and only a functioning Executive can deliver that for the people of Northern Ireland. At precisely the time when the Northern Ireland most badly needs to make its voice heard in these discussions there is official silence.

"Within the Agreement there is also the potential to meet the challenges we will face by using the full potential of Strands Two and Three. As called for today by the SDLP, now is an opportune moment for a review and renewal of the agreement that will bring a new generation of politicians across our islands together to forge a path forward.

"The recent comments from senior political figures in the UK, shows that many from both sides of the aisle do not grasp the significance of the settlement, and why it must be protected and allowed function for future generations.

"The Irish Government as a co-guarantor of the Agreement has a central role to play in ensuring devolution is restored and how the Agreement can prosper. After 15 months there must now be a fresh initiative to restore the Executive and imbue the Agreement with new energy.

"An intergovernmental conference should be a priority now. However, it is also incumbent on the largest parties in Northern Ireland to find a path forward together. Failing that, the peace that was so hard won will be tested in the recriminations of a hard Brexit and the changes our islands face in the years to come."