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Thursday 21 September 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Jenny Maguire There is violence in poverty, discrimination and systems that don’t work
“Let’s continue to, yes, celebrate peace, but also ensure we achieve it in every corner, because until we do, the impact of the agreement is frankly undermined.”

AS PART OF the government’s marking of the Good Friday Agreement, a cultural celebration was performed in the Abbey Theatre on Sunday, 1 April. 

Sharing Peace, Sharing Futures aimed to celebrate “a diverse set of voices and perspectives on this island”.

As part of the programme, two young people from the creative arts and writing organisation Fighting Words took to the podium to look to the future – and don’t just explore the Good Friday Agreement anniversary through the lens of the past. 

We re-publish, with permission, Jenny Maguire’s speech here, while Benji Mobeeky’s contribution can be found at this link.  


I am from Artane on the northside of Dublin city. My family has always been from the
northside. We’ve cleaned banks, pushed trolleys and stood at reception desks for hours on end. All while searching for anything and everything we can have a bit of a moan about.

Our personal favourites include the weather, the buses or the bleedin’ state of yer one over there.

When I think of what this island has become and also where it is going, I think of my Nana Anne. My nana has always loved telling stories. When I was younger I would stay up way later than my Mam was aware of just to hear one more, no matter how many times we’d heard it before… or how many embellishments she would add to them.

She would never let the truth get in the way of a good story, some of yous [looks at politicians in the audience] are very good at that.

These stories have never really left me, I mean if anyone has ever met me before I’ve
probably told them to ye word for word, no matter how much you tell me you’re late for your bus or how we are in the middle of the show and how you can’t talk side stage or you will be removed, miss.

They’re all absolutely off the wall as well. A wife in labour sitting in the basket of a
bike going to the hospital. A dog being chased around the house with the grandfather’s teeth in its mouth. Crying into chipper chips when you find out Elvis has died, truly a tale as old as time. All stories about the joys, trials and tribulations of the lives of people who really didn’t have much. Their humanity and resilience is what makes these stories so special. 

And I’m sure that many people here have met people like my nana. Whether on a bus,
in your homes or just in some queue. Maybe you have your own nana who is like her. Now mine is the best, but I’m sure yours are fine too.

It is a privilege to meet people like this, they are shining examples of people who despite all of the trouble life throws at us, they still see its joy, and wish to add more to it.

Whether you’re in Dublin or Belfast, people like this are everywhere, and we must treasure them.

It’s my belief that we have a responsibility to these people, the modern day seanchaí, to ensure we have people just like them in 25, 50 and 100 years time. That we mind and care for the joy we get to show the world. That we treat each by recognising and celebrating our differences, and only holding judgement if they are absolutely no craic whatsoever.

That we provide homes to those who need them, no matter how much money they have… I mean cop on to yourselves.

That we provide accessible, free and top quality healthcare, whether it be for transplants or transitions. That we make sure they have a bleedin’ planet to tell stories about. And stories from every community, the day we can finally hear each other’s stories, happiness and sorrow is a day I desperately look forward to.

I want to hear them, and the Good Friday Agreement took a massive step to get to that reality, but it is wrong to say that there is no violence still. Not on the streets so much, but in poverty, discrimination and the systems that don’t work for its people.

Let’s continue to, yes, celebrate peace, but also ensure we achieve it in every corner, because until we do, the impact of the agreement is frankly undermined.

The world is too scary and silly to not look after everyone who needs us. Born here or not. They have stories too. That is how we foster and treasure the joy and stories of those past and present. And the bleedin’ state of you if you don’t.

Jenny Maguire is a writer and activist from Dublin. 

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