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Taoiseach warns against 'spiral back' to sectarian conflict on anniversary of Good Friday Agreement

The agreement was signed 23 years ago today.

Image: Julian Behal Photography

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has warned against a “spiral back” into sectarian conflict in the North following a week of unrest in the region.

In a statement marking the 23rd anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Martin called on political leaders to ensure a return to violence does not happen.

“We owe it to the agreement generation and indeed future generations not to spiral back to that dark place of sectarian murders and political discord,” he said.

“There is now a particular onus on those of us who currently hold the responsibility of political leadership to step forward and play our part and ensure that this cannot happen.”

The Taoiseach reflected how the Good Friday Agreement introduced a new ethos of “tolerance, equality and mutual respect” to underpin society in the North.

He also noted that the island of Ireland had become a different place since the agreement was reached in 1998.

“This has been a period of building trust, developing relationships, changing attitudes, and improving the lives of people on all parts of the island.

“It is important that we remind ourselves how far we have come and to continue to be profoundly grateful, to all of those at community level, who continue to work quietly every day and behind the scene, for peace and reconciliation.”

He added that the most visible success of the agreement was in the generation of young people who had grown up not knowing or experiencing the violence seen during the Troubles, saying he was determined to work to protect the agreement’s existence.

The speech followed more disturbances in the North last night, although it was of a smaller than the unrest seen earlier this week.

Marches planned in many unionist communities in Belfast were cancelled following the news that Prince Philip had died.

However, police were attacked with missiles and a car was set on fire at Tiger’s Bay, a loyalist area in north Belfast.

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Police also came under attack during three hours of disorder in Coleraine in Derry, when petrol bombs and masonry were thrown at officers in the Atlantic Road area.

Commenting on the disturbances in Coleraine, PSNI Chief Superintendent Davy Beck said it achieved nothing but leaving people petrified in their homes.

“Such reckless criminal activity has only served to harm the local community by those who deliberately chose to engage in such disorder,” he said.

“Thankfully, none of our officers were injured as a result of the attacks.”

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