TODAY MARKS THE 16th anniversary of the signing of the historic Good Friday Agreement, the most important step towards achieving peace in Northern Ireland after decades of violence.
In 1998, the signing of the document, something that seemed an unreachable endevour just decades before, aimed to bring peace.
Now, 16 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins is a guest of the Queen of England.
Sinn Féin’s Sean Crowe, a member of the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, who was also part of the Sinn Féin negotiating team leading up to Good Friday Agreement told TheJournal.ie about that day in 1998.
The actual day the Agreement was signed I spent the day in Sinn Féin’s Dublin offices dealing with press queries.I was also arranging speakers and briefings to inform our members and supporters about what was in the Good Friday Agreement. They all wanted to know exactly what the Sinn Féin leadership had signed up.
They were part of a whole range of talks and briefings which were organised right across the island as a means to keep our members updated and informed.
A lot of our supporters naturally wanted to know exactly what was being agreed to and what was in the fine print, and we felt it was important that we involved them every step of the way.
Crowe said there a huge amount of emotions on the day. “People were hopefully and expectant, but they were weary, and aware that negotiations had broke down in the past. However we all hoped for a new beginning,” he said.
“Elements of the Agreement were very difficult for republicans, but it was part of an overall package, and we agreed to it as such,” he added.
Crowe added that he felt that it “is very disappointing that 16 years since the signing of the Agreement that many parts of the package haven’t even been addressed by the Irish and British governments”.
Such things that he said should be developed is an All-Ireland Consultative Forum, a Bill of Rights for the North, an all-Ireland Charter of Rights and an Irish Language Act for the North.
“These elements need to be developed and implemented in order for the agreement to reach its full potential,” said Crowe.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s Brendan Smith, another member of the committee said the Good Friday Agreement “transformed relations on these islands over the past 16 years”.
He added: Securing peace and progressing Anglo- Irish relations over those years has been reflected in this week’s historic State visit.
Smith said that as someone who grew up in the border region, “where terrorism was an ever present threat, the advancement over the past 16 years has been remarkable. Even back then we could not have realised the immense progress that would be made”.
Recalling what he did on this day, 16 years ago, he said:
I recall being at home on that historic day and listening to every possible broadcast and making numerous phone calls in anticipation of the historic events that were unfolding.A day long to be cherished by all in our country and perhaps even that bit more exciting for an Ulster man from the Border area and a day of tremendous significance for every Irish person.
Real challenges remain to be resolved but the Good Friday Agreement has stood firm against the test of time and has indeed brought major benefits to all the people of this island.
Here is some images from the historic day: