Good Friday’s legacy - Violence must never return

Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Some of the events of the past year were unimaginable 10 years ago.

Just hours before the deal was concluded, John Hume expressed the hope that it would be “a very, very Good Friday”. And so it turned out.

Yet looking back yesterday, there was a sense among some of the Northern politicians that the political process was sacrificed for the peace process.

In order to conclude the negotiations by the deadline, issues such as decommissioning and policing had to be left for later. This allowed hardliners on both sides of the sectarian divide to exert an undue influence on the developing process in subsequent years.

Those in the middle ground were squeezed out, but their invaluable contribution should not be forgotten. In a sense Good Friday was a day of self-sacrifice, and they eventually sacrificed their own positions.

The agreement could never have been concluded without the support of people like David Trimble, John Hume, John Taylor, Seamus Mallon, Billy Hutchinson, David Ervine, Gerry Adams, Peter Robinson, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, as well as the valuable part played by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern under very trying personal circumstances.

The commemorations yesterday included a reading at the Unitarian Church in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, of the names of the 3,500 people who died in the Northern Troubles. The reading was a timely reminder of the futility of violence and the tragic loss of life on all sides.

We must all resolve ourselves to ensure such violence is never allowed to happen again.

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