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15 years ago today: the Good Friday Agreement was signed

After almost two years of talks – and 17 hours past the deadline – the historic document was signed by Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.

Image: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

TODAY MARKS THE 15th anniversary of the signing of the historic Good Friday Agreement, the most important step towards achieving peace in Northern Ireland after decades of violence.

The document eventually led to a powersharing government in Belfast.

The “consolidation of peace and the practical cooperation between the political leaders of both communities” was remembered and praised by the chairman of the current joint committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement today.

In a statement, Deputy Joe McHugh said the deal contributed to a greater stability and prosperity for those living in Northern Ireland, as well as residents of the border region.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams recalled the document being signed by the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair “after many years of hard work culminating in long night negotiations in Castle Buildings at Stormont”.

In fact, the talks – chaired by former US senator George Mitchell – went 17 hours past the midnight deadline before a deal was announced.

Commenting today, Adams said, “Internationally regarded as a successful example of conflict resolution, Agreement represents an historic compromise between conflicting political positions, following decades of conflict.

“With stable power-sharing and all-Ireland institutions enjoying the support of the community, the North, in particular has been transformed in the intervening period. A key difference between the Agreement and previous government-sponsored initiatives, all of which failed, is that the principle of equality is at its core.”

He reminded the public “there can be no going back”.

“The tiny minorities who want to cling to the past must be rejected. Sectarianism must be tackled and ended.”

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Prime Minister David Cameron also had words of warning, stating “much remains to be done” to build a “new, confident, inclusive and modern Northern Ireland, whose best days lie ahead”.

“Fifteen years ago people decided overwhelmingly that the future would only ever be determined by democracy and consent, never by violence,” he added.

He noted that it is now “easy to forget just how painstaking and lengthy the process was that eventually led to the Agreement”.

“It involved many very difficult compromises and judgements, on all sides. The final product itself was not perfect; its implementation would take many more years to achieve. Yet it represented a massive step forward from what had gone before, a clear manifestation that politics and democracy would triumph over violence. For that, the architects of the Agreement, and those who displayed remarkable political courage in pushing it forward, deserve our thanks.”

15 years ago today: the Good Friday Agreement was signed
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