15th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement Discussion- 11th April, 2013

Fine Gael TD for Cavan and Monaghan and Vice-Chair for the Joint Oireachtas Committee for the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, Deputy Joe O’Reilly, was present during a special Committee Meeting in the Dail to commemerate the 15th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

‘Those of us who were alive in the pre-Good Friday Agreement period will remember what it was like to get up in the morning and listen to the news on radio and can contrast it with what it is like today. Thanks be to God we have arrived at this point. That merits recognition. We should applaud all of the actors involved and ourselves for the role we played before or since’ stated the Deputy.

Commenting on the significance of the achievements of the Agreement the Deputy said, ‘It is now looked upon as the international model. It is a very significant achievement we should be very proud of that, as a people and as a country. The achievement merits recognition, particularly on the 15th anniversary of the Agreement and is something about which we should be celebratory. The positive effects of the cessation of violence are tangible, notwithstanding the issue of the flags and the risk from dissidents. The achievements are mammoth and merit both recognition and repetition. We should be so proud.’

The Deputy then went on to discuss the issue of unemployment in the North, ‘Establishing the peace and bedding down the Good Friday Agreement was the great challenge of the past. The great challenge of the present in all parts of the island is unemployment, which will require very imaginative responses and great courage. It may also require restructuring in terms of examining issues such as the working day, retirement and other aspects of work. Radical solutions will be necessary, including stimulus packages. We must solve the unemployment problem, North and South. The unemployment black spots in the North are a major worry and have the potential to increase the risk to peace. It is wrong in itself that people are outside the loop in terms of their participation in society. I ask the expert witnesses to outline the current obstacles to educational integration and the progress made on this issue.’

The Deputy then went on to raise the question of the proposed new ‘Civic Forum’ with Dr. Neil Jarman, Director of the Institute of Conflict Interest in Queens University Befast. ‘How does Dr. Jarman envisage the civic forum working and how would he see the civic dimension running parallel with normal democratic politics at local level? How would the two marry and where is the potential for conflict? In the South there are often issues with civic involvement in local communities and conflicts between civic society and local, democratically elected councillors and so forth. How does Dr. Jarman believe the two elements could work together and what needs to be done in this regard? ‘
The Deputy concluded his contribution by touching on the changing demographic in the North and how this has impacted upon Sectarianism. ‘I am interested in the views of the experts on the new Irish, many of whom came here from Eastern Europe. Perhaps the numbers migrating to Northern Ireland were less significant than here in the Republic. I confess I am not up to speed on migration patterns in Northern Ireland but there was a significant inflow, south of the Border, of people from countries like Poland and so forth. To what extent have those who did migrate to Northern Ireland changed the situation there in terms of undermining the old sectarian model? Are new migrants changing the situation in terms of it not being a Catholic-Protestant question any more? How relevant are the new Irish in terms of creating a more normal society?’

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website